House of healing

St. Elizabeth Medical Center serves its community well

UTICA — Showing great initiative in the nationwide drive to improve the quality of patient care, St. Elizabeth Medical Center was honored with a ranking that places it among the highest accredited hospitals in the U.S. in 2006.

St. Elizabeth’s was established in 1866, by the Sisters of St. Francis in Utica in a small Columbia Street house donated by the Franciscan Fathers. The hospital was relocated to a larger house on the same street and accommodated 30 beds by 1869. In 1871, a dispensary was opened for outpatients. In 1887, a new building was constructed on the same site, housing 42 beds. The School of Nursing was founded in 1904. The construction of the present hospital began in 1945, opening on Oct. 4, 1917, the Feast of St. Francis. It housed 145 beds, 20 bassinettes, four operating rooms as well as X-ray, chemical, pathological and bacteriological labs.

Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi and faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, St. Elizabeth’s is committed to bringing excellent healthcare and education to the communities across the Mohawk Valley and beyond.

In addition to the 25-acre campus in the city of Utica, St. Elizabeth Medical Center’s service extends into Oneida and Herkimer Counties, where it is responsible for the operation of 14 primary and rehabilitation care centers. These centers comprise the St. Elizabeth Medical Group and increase the accessibility of healthcare for various communities.

The Medical Center is recognized as a Regional Teaching Institution with the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing, the School of Radiology, St. Elizabeth Family Medicine Residency Program and the Fellowship in Gynecologic Endoscopy.

St. Elizabeth College of Nursing was established in 1904 as a single-purpose, three-year diploma program in nursing. After it was registered as St. Elizabeth Hospital School of Nursing by the New York State Education Department, it graduated its first class of seven in 1907.

The college now offers a two-year associate in applied science (AAS) degree in nursing. The nursing courses include direct patient care that is planned and supervised by a faculty member with expertise in a particular nursing area. One of the strengths of the program is its clinical component which combines the theory learned in class with actual nursing practice, allowing for immediate transfer and application and knowledge. The college also offers an evening/weekend-nursing program to the weekday program. It is designed to meet the needs of the adult student who is unable to attend classes during the weekday hours. The college has graduated over 3,000 men and women.

The college is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and is affiliated with the State University of New York Institute of Technology.

Marianne Monahan, MS, RN, president of the St. Elizabeth Hospital School of Nursing, said that the education received at the school is highquality. “We are the first hospital-based college of nursing to be credited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in the Northeast,” said Monahan.

Monahan said there are a number of ways that make the education at the school exceptionally outstanding. The curriculum has a strong clinical component. “The students are involved in clinical experiences from the very beginning,” said Monahan.

Monahan also credited the school’s faculty as a factor in the high caliber of education received at the school. “We have an excellent faculty,” she said. “Many are long-term staff and I consider them experts in the field of education.” Monahan noted that a high percentage of nursing students pass their licensing exam on their first try and that many students go on to work as nurses at St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

Ann Meisenhelder is a staff nurse in the cardiothoracic intensive care department (recovery unit for open heart surgery) of the hospital. She graduated from the college in 1979. Meisenhelder said earning her degree was a positive experience and that she learned how important nursing is to the health care system. “I learned how to respect myself and the patient,” said Meisenhelder. She also serves as a precept (a person who helps graduate nurses become acclimated to their new units). Meisenhelder has noticed that the recent graduates have been extremely well prepared when she works with them for the first time. “It’s because their instructors are pro-nursing,” said Meisenhelder. “They teach them hands-on care and teach them to examine the emotions of the patient.”

After examining a number of nursing schools, Meisenhelder’s daughter decided to attend St. Elizabeth and is now a first-year student there. “After working here for one year, she made the decision,” said her mother.

Among the other services that the medical center offers is The Mohawk Valley Sleep Disorders Center, which is located on site. St. Elizabeth Home Care serves patients in their homes and St. Elizabeth Health Support Services offers respiratory services and durable medical equipment to patients in their homes. In addition, St. Elizabeth Family Medicine Center manages the School-Based Heath Center, located at Kernan Elementary School.

The medical center offers inpatient services in general medicine and surgery, intensive care, intermediate care, cardiology, psychiatry, pediatrics, oncology and gynecology. The medical center also offers both inpatient and outpatient services in specialties such as cardio-pulmonary care, laboratory, pediatrics, radiology, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, endoscopy, chemotherapy (inpatient only), wound management and family life therapy.

The center operates an on-site ambulatory surgery unit, emergency department and trauma center.
Under the umbrella of the Mohawk Valley Heart Institute, St. Elizabeth offers cardiac surgery, angioplasty, cardiac catheterization, electrophysiology and houses cardiac intensive-care and special-care units.

In addition, the center operates Utica’s first sports medicine center (Adirondack Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy Center). The center also operates Marian Medical Imaging, an outpatient laboratory, radiology and a mammography-testing center.

St. Elizabeth has a Facilitated Enrollment Program in place that, since 2000, has helped over 1,000 uninsured or underinsured people gain access to the medical assistance they need. The program was established in partnership with the Oneida County Department of Social Services. The center has employed four patient account specialists to act as the patients’ authorized representative and advocate at the Social Services Department. The specialists screen the patients for eligibility, enroll them for health coverage and help them access other assistance such as food stamps and housing needs.

“It’s helpful to the hospital, the patients and the county,” said Kim Christensen, Director of St. Elizabeth Patient Access Services. “Other facilities have approached us to ask how we have done this. We get constant feedback about how wonderful our staff is. They thank us for our time and knowledge. I think there is a great need for this. It’s definitely helped to improve the quality of life for our patients.”

Medical Vice President of St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Bob Scholefield, explained the Quality Management System that is in place at the center. The purpose of the system is to insure that St. Elizabeth provide the highest quality care at the most appropriate cost. Scholefield said there are three steps to the process. The first is to determine the standard of care. The next step is to see if there are any state or national benchmarks that are available to follow. The third is to continue to monitor the services. “We are constantly reevaluating the way we do things,” said Scholefield.

St. Elizabeth Medical Center is the 12th in the nation to reach International Organization for Standards Quality Management Standards. The center’s employees also met patient safety standards set by the National Integrated Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations. In addition, the center received a full, three-year accreditation by the joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

By instituting a framework for policy and procedures, the medical center has become one of the most highly accredited hospitals in America.

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