SNVMC has developed sepsis protocols which have been adopted in Prince William County and at other hospitals throughout Sentara.

Sentara Northern Virgina Medical Center leads the fight against Sepsis

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Sally Baldwin: Sepsis Ambassador

It’s not unusual to see longtime volunteer Sally Baldwin manning the desk at the main entrance of Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. But, during the fall of 2016, she traded her familiar red Auxilian smock for a hospital gown.

A neighbor had found Sally moaning and unconscious in her home after no one had heard from her for nearly two days. When she was brought into the hospital, it didn’t look good. She was admitted immediately. The team realized she was suffering from sepsis.

“I almost died of sepsis!” says Sally, shaking her head, looking back.

Sepsis is the body’s response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.  Sally says she was about an hour away from having her organs shut down.

“Sally’s lucky to be alive,” explains Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center Quality and Patient Care Director, Annette McVicker. “She died on us twice, clinically. She was resuscitated twice.”

It was the collaborative work of the Emergency Department and then the Intensive Care Unit that identified Sally’s infection and began the acute treatment to get her well. It worked. Five days after Sally was admitted into the hospital she was released, but not without leaving something behind: Sally is now the hospital’s Sepsis Ambassador. 

“The care is the reason I’m doing so well!” says Baldwin.

McVicker agrees. She is dedicated to Sepsis Protocol Clinic Performance Improvement. The goal, to decrease sepsis related death, empower the care team and serve the patient. In healthcare, sepsis is called, “The Great Masquerader.” The disease kills more people than prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined.  With that in mind, McVicker says a multidisciplinary team took up the fight, focusing on early detection and used education and repetition to rule the disease out in patients. Teams also use checklists which include things like doing tests and following the path to this possible diagnosis.

McVicker says the hard work has paid off. In 2016, the head of the Prince William County Emergency Medical Services reached out to the hospital and asked to align its protocol with the hospital’s. The move allows EMS to call sepsis alerts in the field, giving the team at Sentara Northern Virginia a leg up when the patient is brought in. But, the real measure of success came when the data was compiled, in 2016, the team prevented 12 sepsis-related mortalities. McVicker says the 2017 numbers are on track to be even better.  

Within the Sentara system, other community hospital are following SNVMC’s lead. Sentara Rockingham Memorial and Sentara Martha Jefferson recently visited to learn more about the hospital’s Sepsis Protocols. Rockingham will launch its system this month and Martha Jefferson is scheduled for a soft launch in November. McVicker says this speaks volumes to the work of the team and its commitment to patient care.

“They met as a team and built collaborative tools so the team and patient would be successful. It was never once forgotten that at the center of it, is the patient.”

McVicker says this is an ongoing commitment and the hospital will be active for Sepsis Awareness Month with events throughout September, culminating with an award given in Sally Baldwin’s honor this fall.