“Patients presenting to St. Paul’s Emergency with eye injuries is common,” says Nurse Educator Glenn Cardinal. “Most frequent are foreign bodies in the eye(s), which can be extremely painful, especially when it comes to minute fragments of metal, glass shards or other sharp debris. Chemical exposures like acids or alkali can also cause not only severe pain but permanent damage to the eye.”
Emergency physicians are usually able to treat even serious eye injuries. In more extreme cases, however, a patient must be taken immediately from the Teck Emergency Centre to St. Paul’s Ophthalmology Clinic for additional treatment. Ophthalmology, however, is on a different floor than Emergency; and on weekends and after business hours, it means the ophthalmologist on duty in Emergency must escort a patient upstairs to the Ophthalmology Clinic.
“Eye injuries can rank as high as Level 2 on the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale, which means that patients needs to be assessed by a physician within 15 minutes” says Glenn. “They are taken very seriously.”
Pat Munro, Emergency Department’s Operations Leader, credits Anastasia Elworthy, Operations Leader, Surgical Ambulatory Clinics, with leading an effort to enhance what could be done for Emergency patients with eye injuries in the Emergency Department, reducing the frequency of moving patients to the Ophthalmology Clinic.
Anastasia saw an opportunity to apply to St. Paul’s Foundation for an Enhanced Patient Care (EPC) grant to acquire additional equipment that, while important, might not be considered a priority that would appear on a department’s capital list.
“The EPC grant presented an opportunity for us to get this equipment,” says Pat Munro, the Emergency Department’s Operations Leader, “whereas without the EPC grant, we might not have it, or at least not so quickly.”
The new equipment includes a screen, much like a TV, which has a series of lenses that connect it to a recorder which can then be hooked up to the ophthalmologist’s computer, allowing the ophthalmologist to place test images on the screen to determine how a patient’s vision has been impacted by an injury.
That these tests, which previously could only be undertaken in the Ophthalmology Clinic, can now be conducted in Emergency saves everyone—patient, ophthalmologist, Emergency staff—the time it would take to bring the patient to another location.
“We’re now able to do more in the Emergency Department,” says Pat. “The ophthalmologist can actually work out of the eye room here. We have reduced the need to move the patient to another area. And our concern of physician and patient being in an isolated area has also been addressed. For issues of workload and work flow it has made a great difference having this equipment here in Emergency.”
Funded by St. Paul’s Foundation’s Lights of Hope campaign, Enhanced Patient Care grant amounts range from a few hundred dollars to five thousand dollars, depending on the need. Calls for applications are announced each summer (watch for it in PHC News and other media) and grants are awarded in the fall.
To support the Enhanced Patient Care Fund and other programs, you can donate to Lights of Hope at http://helpstpauls.com.