We Celebrate 5 North

For the 5 North Team, above and above is just the beginning. As a stroke and neuropsychology department, 5 North serves a wide variety of patients with significant medical needs – and, in many cases, complex behavioral and social challenges.

Meeting this vulnerable population’s needs demands extraordinary collaboration, compassion, and innovation at the individual, team, and department levels. These concepts offer crucial consistency and encouragement in a unit where every day (or even shift) differs.

These principles also guide the department’s culture and strategies to improve care for 5 North patients and support nursing teams across our organization. Their efforts have garnered recognition as a leader in behavioral health care by the American Nurses Association, the Joint Commission, Epic, and Vizient.

“For us as leaders, it’s rewarding to care for team members across the organization – to show up, help other nurses, and have their back,” said Justin Barnes, 5 North Medical Nurse Manager. “We do it for each other.”

Given 5 North’s intrinsic focus on teamwork and innovation, it’s only fair that they receive the same support they provide team members and patients daily. Please take a moment to celebrate 5 North and learn about their invaluable role.

5 Reasons We Celebrate 5 North

1. They are Advocates for the Most Vulnerable

5 North treats patients with cognitive, emotional, or behavioral impairments caused by an injury or illness of the brain. The team frequently works with complex discharge patients with severe behavioral and cognitive impairments, social and family challenges, and social determinants of health that affect their ability to receive care. In many cases, these patients come to 5 North because they experience challenges such as:

• Finding appropriate care
• A lack of (or insufficient) insurance
• Service denials due to payment ability
• An inability to be discharged independently

As a hospital, Stormont Vail Health must provide care regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. 5 North gives patients a safe place to overcome these barriers even when they no longer need ongoing acute care.

2. They are Champions of Collaboration

5 North takes an interdisciplinary team approach to provide acute behavioral care services to patients admitted to various units in the organization. This approach also calls for cross-department collaboration to provide outside services to 5 North patients or support to other nursing teams as patients move to other units.

“Our charge nurses take pride in moving patients to 5 North; it’s like being an older sibling,” said Justin. “As leaders, our role is to care for our team members and patients.”

As this unit primarily serves patients with cognitive or emotional impairments, 5 North’s multidisciplinary, team-centered approach is essential to managing potential behavioral issues or violent situations.

With this in mind, 5 North offers an acute behavioral response team to support patient outcomes and nursing teams across our organization who are less prepared to manage these situations by providing de-escalation assistance.

“The charge nurses have owned that process on top of their own unit’s leadership responsibilities,” Justin said. “Our goal is to support other units within the organization.”

3. They are Innovators

In addition to the Behavioral Emergency Support Team, 5 North has implemented new ways to care for patients, improve room safety, de-escalate volatile situations, and more.

The 5 North Team’s acute behavioral health initiatives have received much-deserved recognition from the American Nurses Association, the Joint Commission, Epic, Vizient, and other national organizations. Notably, the department’s efforts have gone a long way to put outside teams more at ease when caring for patients discharged from 5 North.

4. They are Dedicated to their Profession

Angela Mendez, Acute Care Services Director, immediately found her niche when she joined 5 North in 2006. However, she admits that a career in this department isn’t for everyone. 5 North patients’ complex conditions often require extended hospital stays. They may subject team members to challenging or Volatile behaviors for extended periods of time.

“It’s people who have the heart of service who’re drawn into this work because you want to genuinely help patients and their families,” Angela said. “You get to know aspects of their life. The discharge process differs from that of other patients because we have to know everything about them. Despite their past, the nurses still want to help even the most challenging patients with an open, unbiased mind.”

The department follows the shared governance structure to offset these challenges and encourage more professionals to pursue long-term careers in 5 North. This framework, combined with formal nursing practice models, supports and empowers team members with a voice and the freedom to speak freely – leading to sustainable, positive outcomes for everyone.

5. They are Committed to Professional Exploration & Growth

In a department where no two days are the same, 5 North gives nurses many experiences and opportunities to become well-versed in their profession. While demanding, this dynamic setting offers plenty of room to grow for individuals who don’t want to do the same thing every day.

But, for the same reasons, this environment also makes recruitment and retention a challenge for the same reason. 5 North leaders hope to change other healthcare professionals’ perspectives about their unit by raising awareness of their culture and initiatives and sweeping organizational-wide support.

“Nurses have a lot of growth in 5 North and feel empowered to spread their wings after caring for such a wide variety of patients,” said Justin. “We want to change the narrative so this is a career, not a stopping point for nurses. We give our team members a lot of autonomy to practice. We have extensive education and throughput to ensure they have the resources they need to succeed. We have their back daily.”

We Appreciate 5 North

5 North treats patients with cognitive, emotional, or behavioral impairments following an illness or injury of the brain. They may have little to no outside support and face many barriers to care related to social determinants of health, complicating their condition further. Moreover, patients may exhibit volatile behaviors, adding to healthcare workers’ demands.

Despite the challenges, the 5 North Team consistently meets these challenges day after day while supporting their fellow departments. We can’t express our appreciation to this team enough – thank you, 5 North, for never failing to deliver.

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