Background: Sepsis is one of the leading causes of hospital mortality and readmission. For the past 20 years, sepsis research has focused on best practices for treating patients with the most severe manifestations of sepsis, while the treatment of patients outside of critical care or ED settings, who have early or less severe signs and symptoms of sepsis, have received little attention.
Objective: The goal of this quality improvement (QI) initiative was to promote early recognition and treatment of sepsis through the establishment of a multidisciplinary, executive-led sepsis guiding team that leveraged nursing skills and expertise.
Methods: To meet this objective, we decided to speed the initiation of sepsis treatment at our medical center, going beyond the Surviving Sepsis Campaign guidelines in place at the time and setting as targets the identification and treatment within one hour of all inpatients and ED patients with suspected sepsis, regardless of their illness severity or care unit. Our early intervention strategy incorporated a nurse-directed ED Code Sepsis, based on the characterization of sepsis as a systemic inflammatory response syndrome—a criterion widely used at the start of this QI initiative—and an inpatient Power Hour, which authorized nurses to initiate order sets independently for lactate levels, blood cultures, and fluid boluses when they suspected sepsis. The order sets both improved bundle adherence and signaled the pharmacy to expedite antibiotic preparation and delivery. To gauge the effects of our initiative, we conducted a retrospective, interrupted time-series cohort evaluation, using the in-hospital sepsis-related mortality rate as the primary outcome, and considered as process metrics the initiation of ED Code Sepsis and the inpatient Power Hour, order set use, bundle adherence, and sepsis-related rapid response team (RRT) calls.
Results: Over the course of the seven-year pre- to postintervention evaluation period, ED sepsis bundle adherence increased from 40.5% to 73.7% (P < 0.001), with a mean triage to antibiotic time of 80 minutes. Sepsis-related RRT calls decreased from 2.2% to 0.85% (P < 0.001). And the in-hospital sepsis-related mortality rate dropped from 12.5% to 8.4% (P < 0.001) with an absolute reduction of 4.5 deaths per 100 sepsisrelated discharges.
Conclusion: This project demonstrates that using nurse-directed care to promote timely identification and early treatment of sepsis in the ED and in inpatient settings can improve bundle adherence and reduce in-hospital sepsis-related mortality rates.