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Medical Emergency Team

The Medical Emergency Team at BMC is reducing cardiopulmonary arrest and saving lives.  

Call it intuition - the sixth sense of an experienced nurse who detects the early signs that a patient's condition is deteriorating. The symptoms may be subtle, but they speak volumes to caregivers trained in both the art and science of medicine. Since late 2001, nurses at Berkshire Medical Center have called the Medical Emergency Team to the bedside of their patients to head off cardiopulmonary arrest and a mayday code. The result is a remarkable program that is saving lives that statistics say would otherwise be lost.

"Once a patient has a mayday, their survival is basically fixed at 17 percent," said Gray Ellrodt, MD, chairman of the Department of Medicine. "If you look at national statistics from 1970 to 2005, there is no change in the survival rate for patients who have experienced cardiopulmonary arrest. The obvious answer is to prevent the arrest."

In 2001, BMC became one of the first hospitals in the country to establish a Medical Emergency Team. Under the direction of Dr. Ellrodt, the team consists of the charge nurse in the Intensive Care Unit, a respiratory therapist and a senior medical resident - a powerful group with expertise in assessing patient conditions. Functioning around the clock, the team is summoned when symptoms indicate that a patient may be at risk for an arrest.

Since initiating the program, the number of calls to the Medical Emergency Team have increased, while actual mayday calls have decreased dramatically.

"Nurses at the bedside develop an overall sense of their patients and know when something is wrong," said Michele Franklin, clinical manager of Critical Care Services and a charge nurse in the Intensive Care Unit. "This program enables our nurses to act on their intuition about a particular patient and call for a second opinion. When we meet in a patient's room, we all come to some conclusion about what's happening and begin treatment."

Early intervention not only prevents mayday codes and possible death, it also keeps most patients from requiring a higher level of care. In many cases, patients are stabilized right where they are.

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