CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Board of Directors at the Charleston Area Medical Center voted Wednesday to allow some nurses to intervene in certain emergency situations closely following heart surgery.
The change doesn't apply to all nurses or all situations, but could, in the relatively rare situations it's deemed appropriate, save lives. Or at least that's the idea that prompted CAMC's cardiac surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists to suggest the measure.
"It's not common, but should something occur we want to have the opportunity to let them intervene to save lives," said James Lohan, chief of staff at CAMC.
Sometimes immediately after open-heart surgery, before the patient has come to, blood builds up around the heart, forming a dangerous amount of pressure. That gives doctors a tiny window of time in which they can act to alleviate the buildup.
If the surgeon happens to be out of the room when this happens -- say, giving the patient's family news on the procedure -- staff in the room are powerless to fix the problem, forced to wait for the surgeon to return while time continues to pass.
That's the situation that the new procedures will hopefully prevent. There's typically a Registered Nurse First Assistant in the operating room for every heart surgery. Now, in the specific situations, that nurse will be authorized to intervene, reopening the patient to alleviate the pressure in the patient's chest. It's not surgery, exactly -- it doesn't involve sewing -- but it can keep a patient alive as they wait for a surgeon to repair the problem.
"What we're doing is just buying time," Lohan said. "It's a very rare occurrence but if it does happen you want to be able to act on it."
The RNFAs have training above and beyond what's necessary for other nurses, and the whole thing will happen under the supervision of the anesthesiologist. Lohan said their research into CAMC's peer hospitals shows that it's not atypical to allow RFNAs to intervene in this way.
The measure came to the board after being approved by the hospital's cardiac surgeons and the RFNAs and anesthesiologists that work with them, as well as medical leadership and the board's medical staff executive committee.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, the Board passed a resolution to allow CAMC to borrow up to $60 million to help finance the hospital system's new cancer center, bed expansion at CAMC Memorial Hospital and an ambulatory center at CAMC General Hospital, as well as some other minor construction projects. They also voted to refinance around $50 million in bonds from 2009.
The board moved in November to send requests for loans to major local banks and a few national banks to see if they were interested in loaning the hospital system money. The hospital system decided to pursue a private loan for this new money instead of taking out public bonds, saying that borrowing money privately is a more streamlined process.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.