The first of its kind in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system, the Denver VA Medical Center’s tele–intensive care unit (ICU) program is unique because it is entirely nurse driven. A nontraditional tele-ICU model, the program was tailored to meet the needs of rural veterans by using critical care nursing expertise in Denver, Colorado. An experienced CCRN-certified nurse manages the system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Eastern Colorado Health Care System. The virtual ICU provides rapid response interventions through virtual technology. This tele-ICU technology allows for a “virtual handshake” by nursing staff at the start of the shift and a report on potential patient issues. Clinical relationships have been strengthened between all 5 VA facilities in the Rocky Mountain Region, increasing the likelihood of early consultation at the onset of clinical decline of a patient. In addition, the tele-ICU nurse is available for immediate nursing consultation and support, coordinates point-to-point virtual consultation between physicians at the rural sites and specialists in Denver, and assists in expediting critical care transfers. The primary objectives for the tele-ICU program include improving quality and access of care to critical care services in rural sites, reducing community fee basis costs and frequency of transfers, and increasing collaboration and collegiality among nursing and medical staff in all Region 19’s medical centers.

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