American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recognizes the UCI Health surgical intensive care unit with gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence

National three-year award is a significant milestone on the path to exceptional patient care and achieving a healthy work environment

July 23, 2018

UCI Medical Center’s surgical intensive care unit has earned a second consecutive gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) in recognition of its exceptional patient care and healthy work environment.

The surgical ICU was first recognized as a gold-level Beacon Award recipient in 2015. It is the only such unit in California and one of only 11 in the United States to have achieved the gold-level award. Units that achieve this three-year designation meet national criteria consistent with Magnet Recognition, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award.

“UCI Medical Center’s surgical ICU cares for patients with some of the most complex medical conditions,” said Pat Patton, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer for UCI Health. “The Beacon Award bestowed by AACN reflects the culture of accountability at UCI Health and recognizes the skill, training, compassion and teamwork the men and women in this unit demonstrate every day.”

The state-of-the-art unit provides in-hospital treatment for patients admitted through Orange County’s only combined American College of Surgeon’s verified Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, as well as patients that receive other complex surgical and critical care services.

“Our surgical ICU team operates at the highest level of multidisciplinary collaboration among expert physicians, nurses, respiratory and physical therapists, and other staff with one goal – providing patients with the best possible outcomes,” said William C. Wilson, MD, MA, chief medical officer for UCI Health.

AACN President Clareen Wiencek, RN, PhD, ACNP, ACHPN, applauds the commitment of the UCI Health caregivers for working together to meet and exceed the high standards set forth by the Beacon Award for Excellence. These dedicated healthcare professionals join other members of the exceptional community of nurses who set the standard for optimal patient care.

“The Beacon Award for Excellence recognizes caregivers in stellar units whose consistent and systematic approach to evidence-based care optimizes patient outcomes. Units that receive this national recognition serve as role models to others on their journey to excellent patient and family care,” she said.

Patton and Wilson said the collaboration and leadership of surgical ICU nurse manager Heribert Bacareza, MBA, RN, surgical ICU Medical Director Jeffry Nahmias, MD,  critical care nursing director Sonia Lane, MSN, RN, and Allen P. Kong, MD, medical director of critical care services, are essential to achieving the unit’s goals and providing patients with the very best care.

UCI health has a longstanding tradition of nursing excellence. 

In February 2018, AACN recognized three intensive care units at UCI Medical Center with the silver-level Beacon Award for Excellence: neurosciences, cardiac care and medical intensive care units. Recipients who earn silver-level award demonstrate continuous learning and effective systems to achieve optimal patient care.

Nearly 50 nurses in these ICUs hold advanced specialty certifications, including Certified Critical Care Registered Nurse, Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse and Stroke Certified Registered Nurse. 

In 2003, UCI Health became one of the nation’s first university-affiliated medical centers to achieve Magnet Recognition from the American Nurse's Credentialing Center, widely considered the gold standard for nursing excellence. UCI Medical Center was the first Magnet hospital in Orange County and the third in California.

Fifty-three surgical ICU nurses with UCI Health hold advanced specialty certifications, including recognition as Certified Critical Care Registered Nurses.

The gold-level Beacon Award recognizes units that have achieved the highest marks in the AACN’s six Healthy Work Environment Standards:

  • Leadership structures and systems
  • Appropriate staffing and staff engagement
  • Effective communication, knowledge management, learning and development
  • Evidence-based practice and processes
  • Outcome measurement

AACN will honor the UCI Health team and other Beacon Award for Excellence recipients with announcements in AACN Bold Voices, the monthly award- winning member magazine distributed to more than 100,000 acute and critical care nurses nationwide. AACN also honors awardees at the National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition, the world’s largest educational conference and trade show for nurses who care for acutely and critically ill patients and their families.

About the Beacon Award for Excellence: Established in 2003, the Beacon Award for Excellence offers a road map to help guide exceptional care through improved outcomes and greater overall patient satisfaction. U.S. or Canadian units where patients receive their principal nursing care after hospital admission qualify for this excellence award. Units that receive the Beacon Award for Excellence meet criteria in six categories: leadership structures and systems; appropriate staffing and staff engagement; effective communication, knowledge management, learning and development; evidence-based practice and processes; and outcome measurement. To learn more, visit or call (800) 899- 2226.

About the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: Founded in 1969 and based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is the largest specialty nursing organization in the world. AACN joins together the interests of more than 500,000 acute and critical care nurses and claims more than 235 chapters worldwide. The organization’s vision is to create a healthcare system driven by the needs of patients and their families in which acute and critical care nurses make their optimal contribution. To learn more about AACN, visit, connect with the organization on Facebook at or follow AACN on Twitter at

About UCI Health: UCI Health comprises the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, California. The 417-bed acute care hospital provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and it’s the primary teaching hospital for the UCI School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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