Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

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December 17, 2012
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Emergency care helped to save a 'life-threatening' problem

As a long-time piano teacher, Nevada City’s Jean Poff probably has heard some very painful tunes over the years. But that was nothing like the abdominal pain she felt about six weeks ago in her own body.

By 5:30 in the afternoon that Monday, she and her husband Roger knew it was time to get her to the hospital.

“I’m glad we don’t have to go out of town to get hospital care,” she said. “It makes it easy to decide when the Emergency Department (ED) at Sierra Nevada Memorial (SNMH) is only eight minutes away from our home.”

That decision was confirmed when the ED staff “got me in right away, with no wait.” A series of lab and radiology tests confirmed that Poff’s condition was indeed serious – “life threatening,” was how one hospital staffer put it. Once the problem was identified, she was given medication to control her pain and transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Early the next morning she underwent a three-hour procedure.

During her week’s stay, Poff used the Emergency Department, Intensive Care, Recovery, and the One South nursing unit.

Before her visit, Poff said she had a simple faith that the hospital “would do what a hospital does.” After her experience, she was more effusive in her praise.

“The nurses were wonderful,” she said. “They got me up and going, and were always there when I needed them, and gave me great care with very little pain. I just let them take care of me.”

That kind of care is no accident, according to Kerry Cohlmeyer, RN, director of emergency and intensive care, and ambulance services.

“We’ve been working very hard in the emergency department to design and meet patient care goals. Our staff is very engaged in this process,” she said.

The challenge is providing quick and effective care to the 70 to 85 patients the ED sees on an average day. Cohlmeyer said department goals include getting patient vital signs within 15 minutes of arrival, having them seen by an ED doctor within 30 minutes, and acting quickly to provide pain control medications.

“Patient satisfaction rates are typically in the 80s to 90s on a scale of one to 100,” she said.

Patients like Poff are admitted to ICU so they can be closely monitored, and benefit from the high nurse-to-patient ratio, according to Supervisor Babs Kingsley, RN. The ICU provides a nurse for every two patients, to assure close monitoring of vital signs. “I’m proud of the work they do,” she said.

Sandy Joyce, RN, director of perioperative services, said her department works to assure good care and reduce any risk of surgical site infection.

“We do everything we can to keep patients comfortable and reduce risks of infection or post-surgery clotting,” she said. “We have a very experienced staff and we’re here 24/7. We wish Jean a very happy holiday and a full recovery.”

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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The Union Updated Dec 18, 2012 06:13AM Published Dec 17, 2012 09:10PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.