For a more updated and thorough post about the Keystone Project, Click here.
As I have mentioned before, we at the RT Cave believe it is important for each respiratory therapist to be involved in the entire process of patient care as much as possible, as opposed to simply focusing on the respiratory side of the patient's needs.
The main reasoning for this is that, as we learned in respiratory school, "all the organs of the body combined effect the respiratory system in one way or another." Not only is it important for nurses to pick up on the early signs that a patient is failing, it is the job of the respiratory therapist. After all, we are a team, we are all responsible for taking care of the patient.
Most doctors agree that most people do not go into respiratory failure without showing early signs that this is going to happen. It is our job as part of the hospital team to pick up on these early signs and prevent a patient from getting so bad that he or she has to be moved to the critical care unit (CCU).
And, once in the patient is admitted to the CCU, it is our job, along with the nurses, that we continue to monitor the patient for signs of impending failure, besides treating the patient for the critical issue that landed the patient in the CCU.
According to the MHA Keystone Center, "It is estimated that, "over 5 million people are admitted annually (to the CCU) in the U.S., consuming approximately 30% of acute care costs or $180 billion annually. In addition to consuming health care costs, these patients suffer preventable morbidity and mortality. Previous studies suggest that nearly every one of the 5 million patients admitted to an ICU suffer a potentially life threatening adverse event (emphasis added)."
It was the goal of the Keystone Project make recommendations based on the most up to date research to improve costs and, most important, recommend steps that hospitals can take to improve patient outcomes regarding illnesses that do show early signs. And the project recommends each hospitals voluntarily create its own Keystone Team to implement these recommendations.
One of the early recommendations was to create a rapid response team , which would get nurses and respiratory therapists on the patient floors to be on the look out for early signs, and to call the rapid response team into action, to generate early intervention, and thus to prevent the patient's illness from progressing to the point that a move to the CCU is necessary.
Creating ventilator protocols is another recommendation of the Keystone Project in order for the doctors and the respiratory therapists to begin thinking about weaning the moment the patient is placed on the ventilator. Since we have initiated our ventilator protocol, we have seen patient length of time on a ventilator decline sharply.
The Keystone Team at Shoreline where I work has decided that the next step they want to tackle is creating a Sepsis protocol.
I'm not sure what steps we will take, but a few years ago I went to an MSRC conference and one doctor gave a presentation "Everything a respiratory therapist needs to know about Sepsis." And he made us aware that the number one killer in the CCU is sepsis. But people do not get spontaneous sepsis any more than they get spontaneous DIC or ARDS, so it is very important for nurses and RTs to pick up on the early signs.
I couldn't remember everything this doctor said because he went so fast I couldn't keep up with my notes, so as soon as I had a slow night at work I looked this up on the Internet, and was surprised at how much I found.
I found that the MUST protocol was created to make hospital staff aware that sepsis, according to aacnjournals.org, "affects more than 750,000 patients and accounts for more than 215,000 deaths in the United States each year at a cost of $16 billion. Mortality to septic shock has decreased only slightly between 1970 and the late 1990s; it remains the most frequent cause of death in noncardiac intensive care units (emphasis added)."
The MUST protocol makes recommendations in making hospital staff aware of the early signs of sepsis and what to do in the event these signs are prevalent. And while sepsis is not necessarily a respiratory illness, if it progresses, it may result in respiratory failure. Thus, when the RT is present with the patient, or part of the rapid response team, it is essential that he or she knows what the early signs of sepsis are.
While I'm not going to get into the nursing end of sepsis (and you RNs can check out the links above if you are interested), I will address everything that an RT needs to know about Sepsis in the next few days. It's also to know which patients are at risk for Sepsis, ARDS, DIC and PE so they can be closely monitored. At some point in the future I will address all of these as well.
We have met resistance in every step of the way in initiating these protocols, but so far at Shoreline we have managed to create our own rapid response team and a ventilator protocol, and we are currently in the process of creating a sepsis protocol.
While it's not the RTs role to insert catheters, central lines and pulmonary artery catheters, the Keystone Project believes it's the role of every person at the bedside to make sure nurses and doctors are in compliance with infection control techniques to "reduce or eliminate catheter related blood stream infections in ICUs." Since we RTs are often at the bedside, we need to be aware of proper technique.
And, while it's not our role to check sugars, an RT must be one of the team members thinking about this, especially when a patient has sudden mental changes, which may also be an early indicator of sepsis. Does the patient all of a sudden have significant change in respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure? Is the patient suddenly filled with Rhonchi or crackles. These are not things to be ignored, as they may be signs of impending failure.
As a respiratory therapist, I like to see the big picture above and beyond my role as an RT. Due to the recommendations of the Kestone Team, I know that it is important to do oral care on a regular basis to prevent VAP (ventilator acquired pneumonia), and to have inline suction as opposed to bag and suction, and to make sure the head of the bead is up 30 degrees, and to make sure the patient is still rotated from side to side even though he or she is on a vent.
And, while it was once recommended not to exceed 20 cwp of cuff pressure in the ETT, , it is now recommended not to let the pressure become anything less than 20. The reason for this is to prevent aspiration and VAP.
I'm not sure if this was a recommendation by Keystone or not, but while I was taught to use 1-15ml/kg ideal body weight when I was in RT school in the mid-199s, it is now recommended to go with a lower tidal volume of 6-10ml/kg ideal body weight to prevent barotrauma. And, in cases of chronic or severe pulmonary illness, it is recommended to start on the low end.
If these things are not being done, it is my responsibility as an RT to either do them, or to at least make sure the nurses or other RTs are doing them.
Not only is is a good idea to generate these teams, and these protocols, but it's also a good idea for respiratory therapists to continue to research, to attend seminars and in services, to stay up to date on all the latest research and recommendations to improving patient care. I think this is necessary even if protocols are not available.
Personally, I don't need a protocol to make me participate in the patient's care this way, but the use of protocols provide RTs with more leeway in what we are allowed to do regarding the patient, especially regarding early intervention. If the patient looks bad now, why not get a quick ABG, EKG and, perhaps, order a STAT x-ray while the nurse is calling the doctor.
When we RTs are called to the patient room to give a breathing treatment, and we observe that the patient is not having bronchospasm but is wet, and then we notice that the IV is running at 500, we would naturally make the RN aware of this. And then we would recommend a diuretic, instead of a bronchodilator.
It's not that the nurses are incapable of finding this out on their own, because they are and they do. But if we are a team, we all must be vigilant all the time. What one of us does not pick up on right away, the other hopefully will.
By keeping up on our research, participating in protocols, and making recommendations that work to benefit the patient, we are not just helping the patient, we are using the skills and education that we have accumulated. This is good for our RT morale.
We are a team, and we must all work together to the benefit of the patient, and to the benefit of ourselves and our institutions.