Getting rid of emergency room bottlenecks

Toronto’s population boom in the downtown core is stretching UHN’s Emergency Departments to the limit. Dr. Anil Chopra, Chief and Director of Emergency Medicine at UHN, says that the days that push his teams to the max are becoming the norm.

To address this challenge – felt in ERs across the city – emergency medicine clinical researchers are developing and testing specialized services to meet the needs of a diverse patient population that comes through their doors. A geriatric emergency management (GEM) nurse can help emergency departments manage frail seniors more effectively and learn more about their unique needs. Seniors represent a significant patient population visiting emergency departments – approximately one in four patients.

GEM nurses bring with them knowledge of aging, understanding of the common geriatric conditions, as well as intervention and prevention strategies that help seniors maintain their level of  independence and well-being. A GEM nurse position was created at Toronto Western Hospital’s Emergency Department in 2006, and in addition to improving care, has saved the health system tens of thousands of dollars a year by improving patient outcomes and decreasing the number of patients who are admitted and readmitted to hospital.

Looking to replicate this success at Toronto General Hospital, a year-long pilot project was launched with the support of Neil and Judy Baker in September 2016. Jane Ren, an emergency nurse for six years in the department and nurse at Baycrest Health Sciences for five years prior to that, was selected to be the inaugural GEM nurse.

“Anyone who has visited an emergency room recently can see the challenges the staff face, and the resulting wait times for treatment,” says Neil, a Senior Partner at Gordon Investment Partners. “We wanted to contribute to an area that was clearly in need of support, and where the impact could be tangible and immediate.” In addition to assessing and caring for seniors who come to the Emergency Department, Jane is also tracking patient flow and satisfaction. In a short amount of time, her impact has been significant.

Impressed with the tremendous success of the pilot project, the Baker family recently stepped forward to fund Jane for a second year, with the hopes that her position will become permanent, funded by the health system.

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