University Medical Center at Princeton Opens Only ACE Unit in Mercer County

Mar 4, 2009

Princeton, NJ - University Medical Center at Princeton has joined a select number of hospitals in opening an eight-bed Acute Care of the Elderly or ACE nursing unit. UMCP is the only hospital in Mercer County, and one of only eight hospitals within the state of New Jersey, to offer this special nursing unit that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the older adult patient.

Statistics show that 50 percent of all individuals hospitalized in the United States are over the age of 65.  Studies by NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Health System Elders) have also shown that 36 to 58 percent of older adults who are hospitalized will experience a decrease in their ability to function.  The ACE unit at UMCP is designed to help seniors maintain their ability to function.

According to Ashley Zampini, BSN, RN, NICHE Program Coordinator at UMCP, "On average, 50 percent of UMCP's inpatient population is over the age of 65. Multiple units within the hospital far exceed this number, with up to 90 percent of their patient population being over the age of 65. We recognize the needs of older adults and we responded by opening this unit."

 "As an institution, we have recognized the complexity of the older adult population and are committed to expanding our skills and services to best meet the specialized needs of this population," says Daphne Berei, BSN, RN, CNA, Unit Manager, UMCP.

Patients typically admitted to this unit include adults over the age of 65 who are acutely ill. This includes individuals who have experienced a fall, have had multiple hospital admissions over the past months, or exhibit other evidence of frailty upon admission to the hospital.

The ACE model of care aims to reduce complications these patients may face during hospitalization in an effort to return them to their baseline level of functioning. Rooms are designed with special low beds to prevent skin breakdown and falls and geriatric-friendly bedside recliners. The entire staff, both nursing assistants and nurses, has received specialized training to care for older adult patients," adds Zampini.  An interdisciplinary care team is made up of a geriatrician, a registered geriatric nurse, pharmacist, physical therapist and social worker. Additional consultative services from occupational therapists, wound therapists, and speech and swallow pathologists are available when medically necessary.

The ACE unit is staffed 24/7 with a ratio of one nursing assistant to every four patients. "This nursing assistant is versed in geriatric care needs and remains within the room at a work station throughout the shift," says Zampini.

"Our nursing assistant to patient ratio (which exceeds state regulations) allows for more hands-on patient care, including frequent toileting, ambulation assistance, mealtime assistance, socialization and reorientation, which are found to maintain, and even improve, the patient's overall function and health," explains Berei.

The ACE Unit is one of many initiatives under the umbrella of the Nurses Improving Care for Health System Elders (NICHE) program, which aims to provide exemplary care to all older adults in healthcare settings from all healthcare providers.