With a full slate of QA awards to their credit, Saint Mary’s Healthcare Network leads Nevada in providing excellence in care.
In 1877, Reno was finding its feet as a new city, attracting prospectors drawn to riches held deep in the legendary Comstock Lode. A group of Roman Catholic Dominican sisters on their way from Kentucky to California made an unscheduled stop there, and seeing a community in need of education and compassionate care, stayed on to help.
In 1908, their Sisters’ Hospital began accepting patients, although there were only two nurses on staff. Undeterred, the sisters kept going, opening a training school for nurses to overcome a serious labor shortage. As the “biggest little city in the world” kept growing, so did the needs of its people, and Sisters’ expanded, opening Saint Mary’s Hospital in 1912.
Today, Saint Mary's Healthcare Network includes a 380-bed, full service Regional Medical Center offering comprehensive inpatient and outpatient cancer services. As a top-rated center for cancer, Saint Mary’s offers both robotic and traditional surgical approaches to care. Additionally, Saint Mary’s is home to Nevada’s first nationally accredited Breast Center of Excellence.
In addition to an award-winning cardiology program and a state-of-the-art fitness center, Saint Mary's also operates a fully integrated medical group that includes several comprehensive patient campuses covering a range of specialties including primary care, as well as a host of outpatient services including laboratories, imaging, and urgent care sites. Saint Mary’s is part of the award-winning Prime Healthcare system, which operates 45 hospitals in 14 states.
In 2019, Saint Mary’s joined a stellar list of organizations ranked by national patient safety watchdog Healthgrades as one of the 250 Best Hospitals in America — the only hospital in Nevada to have that distinction. “It puts us in the top 5 percent of over 4,500 hospitals across the nation,” CEO Helen Lidholm said. “Our company is owned and led by physicians, and our most important achievements are patient care, quality, and outcomes. Those are always at top of mind.”
That focus also garnered Saint Mary’s an A rating by quality assurance group Leapfrog for the sixth consecutive year. IBM Watson HealthTM chose Saint Mary’s as one of the 50 top cardiovascular hospitals in the nation.
“From the top down is how it started. From the bottom up is how we achieved it,” noted Chief Nursing Officer Katie Grimm, RN, BSN, MBA.
Lidholm added, “My leadership philosophy has always been that you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. You put together a team with what they need to do their job, and you get out of their way. Lastly, the most important thing is to always have their backs.”
“That philosophy has created a culture at Saint Mary’s of collaboration and innovation,” Grimm agreed. “We are not afraid to try. We are not afraid to fail and try again. We have successfully implemented lean six sigma philosophies that really ask our frontline staff to create innovation and change, and the processes needed to meet whatever the quality initiative is.
“Over the years we have engaged our nurses, doctors, labs, imaging, whatever department that touches the patient, and brought a multidisciplinary team together to discuss problems and identify the quality outcomes that we want, and then we figure out how to get there. Over time we’ve been able to perfect that.”
Grimm is particularly proud of the hospital’s sepsis care program. Sepsis, a potentially deadly blood infection that’s notoriously difficult to diagnose, strikes more than a million Americans every year — 15 to 30 percent of whom die. “The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services recognized a few years ago that if you implement a series of interventions starting at the onset of symptoms you can change outcomes and save lives.”
The combined interventions, known as a bundle, are extremely complex. To be in compliance with CMMS requirements, every one of the 25 elements in the treatment protocol must be performed in specific order, from the start of treatment through discharge.
“Fifteen years ago, CMMS put out a large bundle for congestive heart failure, which was much simpler, and it took us years to become compliant,” Grimm recalled. “Over time we’ve been able to perfect (our processes) to get substantial change at the bedside very quickly.
“It’s such a human process. Technology can be your friend or foe, and if it’s not working for your benefit it can actually make things more difficult. This is an example of putting human beings together and optimizing technology so that we can achieve the patient outcomes that we want.”
Saint Mary’s is a fast follower when it comes to technology, and that approach is working exceptionally well for them. “A lot of healthcare systems get caught up in early adoption, which is why healthcare systems can run into negative operating margins, as well as not necessarily making a dent in outcomes because people get focused on the technology improving the care,” Grimm explained. “We acquire technology only if we know it’s been proven to be a best practice, and improves clinical outcomes.”
Saint Mary’s is the only system in the region to use one of the most advanced forms of radiosurgery available to cancer patients, the CyberKnife. The fully robotic system delivers precisely focused beams of radiation to destroy tumors. Painless, non-invasive, and highly effective, CyberKnife technology makes it possible to treat areas of the body other forms of radiosurgery can’t. At Saint Mary’s, the CyberKnife is used to treat cancers of the lung, prostate, and brain.
“The CyberKnife beam moves with the patients’ movement and breathing, so there’s less damage to surrounding tissue,” Lidholm stressed.
“We have a brain program that can literally get somebody from initial diagnosis to full treatment with our CyberKnife in less than two weeks,” Grimm added. “Our cancer program goes beyond the cool technology. To be able to effectively treat somebody with cancer, you have to have excellent collaboration between the oncologist, the radiation oncologist, and then imaging and pathology, all of the multiple disciplines. Cancer for an individual is a lifetime treatment. Being able to support individuals all the way through treatment to survivorship is key.”
Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center is a 380-bed acute care and general medical/surgical hospital located in Reno, Nev., with a complete range of services, including Women's and Children's services, Home Care, Hospice and Palliative Care, a nationally accredited Center for Cancer, a full-service Cardiology program, a multi-specialty Medical Group and state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center was named the state's first Nationally Accredited Breast Center of Excellence and is the only hospital offering CyberKnife, a non-invasive radiation delivery system, in northern Nevada.