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How a Small-Town Hospital Became Recognized as One of the Top in the Nation
Pati Kelley, RN, changed the trajectory of her career to become a nurse later in life. She felt a call on her heart to serve people at their most vulnerable points and put herself through nursing school in her mid-40s. When she graduated, she started working at AdventHealth Murray, where she found her tough but tender personality was a natural fit for the emergency department. Kelley immersed herself in emergency medical care and embraced the complexity and variety of cases that walked in the door.
“Patients have confidence and faith in us to take care of them. Looking at them in the eye and saying, ‘Can I pray with you?’ or ‘Is there anything else you need?’ means more to these folks than any medicine we can give them. They’re vulnerable. And they’re here for our help. And sometimes it's more than medicine,” said Kelley.
During the morning meetings of night shift and day shift team members, called “huddles,” Kelley reminds the team that they are here as an extension of Christ’s love and compassion and not for their own glory. Kelley appreciates the diverse array of personalities and skill sets on her team and how well they work together for the good of the patients.
“We’re just so tight; we’re different individuals who are coming together for one purpose,”said Kelley.
Kelley’s drive and pledge to care for her fellow Murray County residents is not uncommon for the AdventHealth Murray team. The hospital, which opened in 1949 on Walnut Street in downtown Chatsworth, has been integral to the community’s health for more than 70 years. The community has done whatever it takes to keep the hospital open, despite economic and management challenges. AdventHealth took over the management of the hospital in 2015 and has worked to bolster the physician base, expand hospital services to address the needs of nearby residents and rebuild AdventHealth Murray’s reputation for quality local health care. AdventHealth officially purchased the hospital in December 2020.
Emergency Response: First Line of Care
In the case of a medical emergency, AdventHealth Murray EMS is oftentimes first on the scene. Providing emergency care to a service area of 347 square miles across Murray County as the sole provider of EMS services, the AdventHealth Murray EMS team is ready and equipped to save lives through trained medical transport.
The top-of-the-line trucks are outfitted with modern upgrades such as an automated LUCAS CPR chest compression device, hydraulic gurneys and cardiac monitors to enable the EMS team to provide quality and life-saving care for patients during the ride to the hospital. In addition, the AdventHealth Murray EMS team fosters a long-standing culture of advanced training and expertise.
Philip Boylan, a paramedic and training coordinator with the team since 2019, said, “We specialize in trauma, pediatrics and advanced medical emergencies. We’re continuously training in critical care transport just about every shift, every week, and we just finished the paramedic and EMT refresher courses with our entire team.”
AdventHealth Murray EMS Deputy Director Doug Douthitt said today’s emergency team can provide much more advanced care than even a decade ago.
“Paramedics are now trained to use a video laryngoscope for tube placement directly into the trachea or lungs to open up the airway. Our EKG transmission from the cardiac monitor enables the care team at the hospital to monitor a patient while they’re in transit, procuring a safe and seamless handoff of treatment,” said Douthitt.
Douthitt has observed a drastic difference in patient choice of hospitals during transport in recent years. More than seventy percent of patients chose AdventHealth Murray in 2022 compared with only fifty percent who requested AdventHealth Murray five years ago.
“Our patients request AdventHealth Murray because they feel they are cared about, treated wonderfully and receive great care,” said Douthitt.
Douthitt’s own family is deeply embedded in the AdventHealth Murray health care landscape. Douthitt has served on the EMS team for 37 years and today works with his daughter, Bailli Lents, who is a registered nurse in the emergency department.
Emergency Care When It Matters Most
Walking through the doors of AdventHealth Murray’s emergency department, a patient is typically seen in minutes. The highly trained nurses, physicians and techs are ready to recognize and jump in to help patients experiencing a medical emergency.
Last year, 15 of AdventHealth Murray’s emergency department nurses earned the Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) certification from the Emergency Nurses Association. This certification is globally recognized for training nurses to provide expert trauma care in critical situations. The emergency care team has used these skills and treated patients involved in vehicle accidents with spinal injuries, resulting in better outcomes.
“We are proud to offer our Chatsworth community the best of emergency care, right here at home," said Andrew Gribble, nurse manager of the AdventHealth Murray emergency department. “Our compassionate nurses are ready to act when we have a trauma patient arrive when every moment counts in a life-threatening case.”
Dax McKay, MD, was born and raised in Murray County. He first came into the hospital as an accident-prone child who was mesmerized by the fast-paced and interesting world of the emergency department. This experience convinced him to pursue medicine. After completing his residency, Dr. McKay is serving his first year as an emergency medicine physician at AdventHealth Murray. He now works alongside people who knew him as a frequent patient who had many visits to the emergency department. Dr. McKay now enjoys the challenge of treating varying cases each day and providing compassionate care to patients from his home community.
“I wanted to give back to the community that provided me with the experiences that inspired this line of work,” said Dr. McKay.
Last fall, AdventHealth Murray was designated as a Remote Treatment Stroke Center by the Georgia Department of Public Health Office of EMS and Trauma. This designation recognizes AdventHealth Murray’s performance in providing specialized, high-quality care to achieve the best possible outcomes for stroke patients.
AdventHealth’s larger network of hospitals has enabled AdventHealth Murray to gain access to specialized physicians that wouldn’t normally be provided in a small-town hospital. Through the innovation of telehealth, patients can be seen by a stroke specialist, psychiatrist or advanced specialist who all work with the onsite care team to provide the targeted care each patient needs.
Murray County Commissioner Greg Hogan has recognized AdventHealth Murray’s transformation of care over the past few decades and has personally benefited from the care he received there. In 2017, he suffered a heart attack and was stabilized by the emergency department.
“AdventHealth Murray is no longer the old Murray County hospital. Because of the AdventHealth network, I’ve seen the hospital become newer and better all the time. They are a vital part of this community, both from an economic standpoint and as a support for our citizens and their health needs,” said Hogan.
Cared for Like Family
When a patient needs to stay in the hospital, they are comforted by the caring inpatient team, many of whom have deep roots in the Chatsworth community. April Powers, RN, nursing house supervisor and lifelong resident of Murray County, is motivated by her desire to care for her neighbors.
“It is an honor and a privilege to take care of our patients who are also community members. Often that means neighbors, parents of my friends, some of the older population that have watched me grow up and sometimes my children's friends. This honor comes from their trust and respect that I will do what is best for them. I enjoy seeing them receive the care they need, heal and get to go home but also appreciate the fact our team has taken great care of them, and they are always willing to return,” said Powers.
To provide more advanced inpatient care close to home, AdventHealth Murray opened its Progressive Care Unit (PCU). The PCU is dedicated to patients who need ongoing medical attention and more specialized care. Recent upgrades of new flooring to patient rooms, operating rooms and lobbies have enhanced the patient experience. In the hospital, patients have access to imaging services, laboratory services, respiratory therapists and surgical care as needed.
As part of their intention to care for patients like family, members of the spiritual care team created an “Angel Cart” for patients in hospice care and their families. The Angel Cart is a portable cart that can be taken throughout the hospital and into patient rooms or the chapel. It is for families who exhibit an extra need for support and care and provides a way for the care team to honor these families in their hour of need.
The Angel Cart offers a different type of family-centered care and attempts to lessen the mental anguish, stress and fatigue that are often found in a critically fast-paced environment. As families sit at the bedside of a loved one who is passing, the cart and its supplies help families feel more at home while in the hospital setting by providing a variety of items like music CDs, Bibles, coloring materials for small children, educational and spiritual literature, tea, coffee, juice, bottled water, snacks, fruit, a family resource guide, tissue and battery-operated candles.
"It is always our hope and desire to honor each patient and their family with respect, dignity and grace as they spend these precious and sacred final hours together,” said Alexa Hernandez, chaplain of AdventHealth Murray.
The health care providers and teams at AdventHealth Medical Group clinics are an important part of the community’s overall health. Patients can find several providers specializing in primary care and family medicine and a collection of specialists serving in orthopedics and sports medicine, urology and OB/GYN. This network of care allows Murray County residents to stay close to home for their health care needs.
AdventHealth’s brand promise — feel whole — is not only an aspirational challenge to its patients, but it’s also a challenge to each local hospital within the 51-hospital system. AdventHealth believes that for each community to feel whole, it is important to develop and strengthen the health care resources within each community, so it doesn’t have to rely on larger neighboring communities for primary health care needs.
“As AdventHealth continues to grow and offer more services in Murray County, the community will not only be strengthened, but it will hopefully be another step in improving our overall quality of life and helping residents in our community feel whole,” said Donny Abraham, vice president and administrator of AdventHealth Murray.
AdventHealth Murray achieved a multitude of awards in 2022, which didn’t come as a surprise to Abraham.
AdventHealth Murray was one of 429 hospitals nationwide to receive a 5-star rating from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2022. It was also recognized by the Leapfrog Group as a Top General Hospital, the only hospital in Georgia to receive this prestigious designation. The Leapfrog Group is a national watchdog organization of employers and other purchasers widely acknowledged as the toughest standard-setters for health care safety and quality.
“Our team deeply cares about their patients and works to sharpen their skills to provide top-notch care. Their compassion runs deep, as they wholeheartedly live out the mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ to each and every patient,” said Abraham.
For Abraham, the reason why AdventHealth Murray has gained a stellar reputation is simple; it’s the people who are committed and focused on keeping quality health care in Murray County together with the support of the larger AdventHealth organization. He looks forward to where the next five years take the small hospital and knows that together, anything is possible.