Passion for Patient Care Revolutionizes Vascular Access

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First of its type in US, St. Joseph’s Vascular Access Team utilizes ultrasound guided IV technology, drastically improving accuracy and ease of “needle sticks”


Recognized as 2016 NJBIZ Healthcare Hero

St. Joseph’s Health is the Winner of the 2016 NJBIZ Healthcare Hero Award, Innovation/Organization Category, for its trendsetting Vascular Access Program. The first-of-its-kind sterile ultrasound-guided program in the United States, the Vascular Access Program increases the accuracy and ease of “needle sticks,” drastically enhancing the patient and provider experience in procedures from blood draws and peripheral IVs, to arterial lines and PICC lines.

The 10th annual NJBIZ Healthcare Heroes awards program honors individuals and organizations that are making a significant impact on the quality of health care in New Jersey. Finalists were recognized and category winners announced during the NJBIZ Healthcare Heroes Awards breakfast and ceremony held on June 21, 2016.

A Certified Registered Nurse of Infusion Therapy, Board Certified in Vascular Access, Matthew Ostroff approached clinical leadership at St. Joseph’s with this technology, illustrating how it can have success throughout the system, ranging from emergency department services to surgery to pediatrics and beyond.

“Once we saw an opportunity to change how we treat patients with this process, we moved quickly,” said Judy Padula, Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer, St. Joseph’s Health. “Cost savings, time savings, heightened quality of patient care…we knew that we wanted St. Joseph’s to be at the forefront of this technology, and we had phenomenal talent spearheading it.” St. Joseph’s is the first hospital in the country to have a vascular access team placing sterile ultrasound guided peripheral IVs.

In medical terms, the overall goal of the Vascular Access Program is “vessel preservation,” which can prove invaluable in the short- and long-term care of patients needing multiple/ongoing treatments. From circulation issues in a geriatric patient, an obese patient, a newborn, or a patient receiving bloodwork every week, there are many reasons patients may have difficulty with vascular access. With ultra-sound guided vessel location, nurses, doctors and technicians significantly increase their ability to locate a vessel and access it on the first try, even with difficult-access patients, and prevents the need for more invasive types of catheters such as midlines, PICC lines and central lines.

“Anyone who ever sat through nurses making multiple IV needle sticks understands the value of ultrasound-guided vascular access, but this goes much deeper than an annoying hour trying to draw a few vials of blood or an arm that is bruised for a day or two,” said Vascular Access Coordinator Matthew ­­­­­­Ostroff. “In fact, we recently helped a 2-year-old pediatric oncology patient who was transferred to us from another local hospital because they were unable to successfully grant IV access after 8 attempts. It was after 10 p.m. when I got the call and we were able to place a line in just one stick.”

“Every time we eliminate a stick, our team celebrates a little bit,” said ­­­­Judy Padula. “Not because we ourselves succeeded, but because we can see the relief in the patient’s eyes… we can see their pain cease. That first stick, so to speak, sets the tone for the rest of a patient’s hospital stay. Plus, it means we freed up nursing staff so they can get on with their core jobs and attend to more patients.”

Time-savings is another huge value of the Vascular Access Program. In this case time is measured on many levels, from the minutes and possibly hours it may take to gain vascular access in a difficult patient, to the days that access may require. “In the past, procedures and tests on patients who have vascular access difficulties were dependent on the availability of access,” Ostroff explained. “Our bedside capability eliminates delays and allows more time for immediate care of the patient.”

No More Tears: After 16 Years, Ultrasound Guided IV Technology Changes the Game

Sixteen-year-old Ziaira Dollar has been receiving IV treatments on a regular basis since infancy, the repetitive needle sticks making vascular access increasingly more difficult. For the teen, it wasn’t unusual for inserting a needle to take upward of 20 minutes, require countless sticks and bring tears from the sheer frustration and pain. That all changed when she met Matt and his Vascular Access Team, and had her first one-stick, five-minutes-or-less experience.

“It was heartbreaking to watch her go through the process of being stuck multiple times just to gain access,” said Mary Cadet, Ziaira Dollar’s guardian. “Now, thanks to Matt and the ultrasound-guided technology, it is beyond soothing as a parent to know that your child won’t be going through additional pain and that the job is going to get done with one stick.”

From the very first time Ziaira met Matt she was in awe, and considers the technology a game changer in her young life. “He can actually look at the screen, see how deep my veins go, and know exactly where to put the needle,” said Ziaira. “If kids knew what Matt can do they’d all ask for him.”

Ostroff explains that, in a case like Ziaira’s, frequent IVs cause the veins to get tired and “used up,” making them more difficult to locate. Moreover, because of Ziaira’s condition, it’s imperative to preserve large veins in case of emergency.

“Mapping out exactly where to find smaller vascular access is crucial with a patient like Ziaira,” said Ostroff. “We’re the catalyst that gets patients to their treatment and now that we have the technology for success in just one stick, we can get them there even faster. The medical service and emotional relief we provide patients like Ziaira and her mother are exactly why we do this. It’s why I come in on a Sundayand why I encourage patients to call me if they’re coming in. For difficult-access patients, it’s worth going the extra mile to bring the relief faster and with less pain than they are used to.”


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