The unit is the first in Western Canada to receive the designation from the Cardiac Surgical Unit Advanced Life Support North America program.

Photo L to R: Clinical Nurse Educator Leonard Eulalia and Patient Care Coordinators Robinson Peria and Elise Allen.

In May 2023, Royal Columbian Hospital's Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit (CSICU) became the first in Western Canada to receive a Centre of Excellence designation from the Cardiac Surgical Unit Advanced Life Support (CSU-ALS) North America program.

The CSU-ALS is a specialized life support protocol tailored to patients who suffer a cardiac arrest after undergoing cardiac surgery. It increases survivability by nearly 50 per cent. This evidence-based protocol is more effective than basic life support for patients who have recently undergone cardiac surgery because it allows for a delay in initiating chest compressions and advances the re-opening of the chest to continue resuscitation, including specific resuscitation techniques such as electricity and medication delivery.

Patient Care Coordinators Elise Allen and Robinson Peria and Clinical Nurse Educator Leonard Eulalia underwent an intensive four-day clinical review and teaching mentorship program provided by CSU-ALS. They can now train and certify other cardiac intensive care unit staff who wish to take the program.

To date, more than 90 per cent of the unit’s nurses, staff and medical staff have been certified. Respiratory therapists and Royal Columbian Hospital's emergency attending physicians have also received an overview of the CSU-ALS protocol

"I want to celebrate this prestigious designation. To have over 90 per cent of our staff trained is an amazing achievement," says Erin Mellios, manager of Clinical Operations for Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care. "This specialized protocol is essential for our open-heart surgery patients as it prevents their hearts from being damaged with traditional CPR."

The Fraser Health Scope of Practice Committee has approved expanding CSICU nurses' scope to assist physicians during emergency chest re-opening, allowing them to provide valuable support during these critical moments.

"Our goal as a team is to expand our teachings to the other sites that do cardiac surgery," says Elise Allen, patient care coordinator for the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit. "We're hoping to travel through the rest of the Lower Mainland and Western Canada to educate other teams on CSU-ALS protocol and share our success stories."

With the CSU-ALS Centre of Excellence designation, Elise, Robinson and Leonard can offer this training to cardiac surgery centers across North America. The team also aims to become regional and national leaders in CSU-ALS education delivery and participate in research initiatives to validate and improve the current protocol.

The CSICU team would also like to acknowledge the work of Michelle Nicolas, a former CSICU nurse who laid the groundwork and spearheaded the emergency chest re-opening initiatives at Royal Columbian Hospital.

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