"If you don't adapt you won't survive." For Inova Mount Vernon Hospital that adaptation includes staying on the cutting edge with new equipment, techniques and services.
That was the message of Susan M. Herbert, the hospital's vice president and administrator, to the Alexandria Rotary Club Tuesday at their Belle Haven weekly luncheon meeting. She also warned, "The nursing shortage is very real. Two million are needed nationwide and we need an additional 5,000 in this area."
Arriving at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in 1997, she became administrator and vice president in 1999. It was noted in her introduction that Herbert began her nursing career the same year the hospital opened in 1976.
As a part of the Inova Health System, Herbert said, "We are not trying to be in competition with Alexandria Hospital or duplicate service. We work in concert with one another."
Inova Mount Vernon administers to approximately 23,400 patients in the Emergency Department, 37,500 out patients, and has more than 9,000 admissions in a given year, she pointed out. "In 1999, Inova Mount Vernon was among the top hospitals in the United States," she said.
Over the years, the hospital has been a leader in establishing innovative health care capabilities. The Child Care Center opened in 1982, Inova Rehabilitation Center in 1983, and Inova Joint Replacement Center in 1994.
TWO OF THE hospital's most unusual assets are its Wound Healing Center and its EECP, Enhanced External Counterpulsation, procedure for patients suffering from angina. In the latter case "the body is telling the heart it is not receiving enough oxygen."
According to explanatory literature provided by Herbert, "A treatment, in harmony with your heart, can improve circulation to your heart muscle. EECP treatment appears to stimulate the opening of new, natural pathways around narrowed or blocked arteries."
The treatment consists of wrapping a set of inflatable cuffs around the patient's calves, thighs, and buttocks, according to Herbert. They are inflated followed by a rapid release of pressure on deflation. Inflation and deflation are synchronized with the heartbeat using the ECG signal.
EECP compresses the lower limbs to increase blood flow to the heart. Each wave of pressure is electronically timed to the patient's heartbeat. The increased blood flow is delivered to the heart at the precise moment it is relaxing. When the heart pumps again, pressure is released instantaneously.
"My sister had suffered from angina for years and had been treated at various facilities. After she went through the EECP procedure, I asked her how she felt and she said 'peppy.' As a nurse I knew that was the right response," Herbert told her audience.
The Wound Healing Center employs one of only three hyperbaric chambers in the Washington/Baltimore area and the only one in Northern Virginia. "Nearly five million Americans suffer from chronic, non-healing wounds," Herbert explained.
"By placing them in a hyperbaric state it helps the healing. This procedure brought about healing in six weeks as opposed to the national average of 16 weeks," she emphasized.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy induces pure oxygen to the patient for anywhere from one to five hours at a session while they are encased in a glass chamber. It is the same procedure used to treat deep sea divers that suffer from the bends after a deep dive.
BUT THE CENTER is not limited to this methodology. It employs a wide variety of diagnostic and treatment methods such as laboratory evaluation, vascular studies, nuclear medicine, radiology, physical therapy, nutritional and pain management, skin and tissue grafting, and dialysis.
"In nine months at the center we have exceeded our goals in treating chronic wounds," she noted. "We have served more than 290 patients including some who have been unsuccessful at other medical facilities. When they came to us their tissue healed."
One of the programs which has received special emphasis since Sept. 11, 2001, is that of disaster preparedness, Herbert explained. "We have worked tirelessly on this and we have developed a very good working relationship with the DeWitt Army Hospital at Fort Belvoir. They called us to work with them on 9/11. We share capabilities and facilities."
Inova Mount Vernon's Rehabilitation Center is one of the most innovative in the nation. It not only has all the latest physical therapy equipment but also includes a area known as "Easy Street" which simulated everyday life challenges, such as boarding a bus and grocery shopping, to help patients readjust to the world at large.
The center offers both inpatient and outpatient services. In the former category are programs that deal with brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke, total joint replacement, and general rehabilitation for patients with skeletal and musculoskeletal injuries or degeneration.
FOR OUTPATIENTS there is work rehabilitation which helps injured worker prepare to reenter the employment market; a bridge program providing day treatment for those recovering from brain disorder resulting from illness or injury; neurological and cardiac rehabilitation and orthopedic therapy.
As a tribute to the center's success, Herbert noted, "We recently had a reunion for graduates and 580 returned. It shows this work matters."
In 1994, they opened the Joint Replacement Center. "In the last year we have developed non-invasive knee surgery," Herbert revealed. The brochure explaining the center's capabilities starts with the statement, "Our reputation is world class." It goes on to note, "Today, joint replacement surgery is a highly specialized procedure that literally puts people's lives back in motion."
"Patients have come to us from 49 states and 31 countries," Herbert told the audience. In 1999, the hospital was "recognized as one of the nation's 100 top orthopedic hospitals for its clinical excellence and efficient delivery of care for joint replacement surgery."
Inova Mount Vernon Hospital performs nearly 1,000 replacement surgeries annually; 85 percent of the patients say their life has improved after the surgery; 90 percent list the care as excellent or good; and the complication rate is less than one percent.
Herbert said they have nearly 400 physicians representing more than 20 specialties. She also explained there is a staff of more than 1,100 employees who are supported by more than 550 community volunteers.
When asked how the hospital benefitted by being a part of the Inova Health System, Herbert said, "Just having the brain power of the management system has helped. Our marketing, business development, human resources, and public information have all been improved. But mainly, it allows us to concentrate on the business of health care."