Vanderbilt University Hospital’s original rapid response team included a critical care charge nurse and a respiratory therapist. A frequently identified barrier to care was the time delay between arrival of the rapid response team and arrival of the primary health care team.


To assess the impact of adding an acute care nurse practitioner to the rapid response team.


Acute care nurse practitioners were added to surgical and medical rapid response teams in January 2011 to diagnose and order treatments on rapid response calls.


In 2011, the new teams responded to 898 calls, averaging 31.8 minutes per call. The most frequent diagnoses were respiratory distress (18%), postoperative pain (13%), hypotension (12%), and tachyarrhythmia (10%). The teams facilitated 360 transfers to intensive care and provided 3056 diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Communication with the primary team was documented on 97% of the calls. Opportunities for process improvement were identified on 18% of the calls. After implementation, charge nurses were surveyed, with 96% expressing high satisfaction associated with enhanced service and quality.


Teams led by nurse practitioners provide diagnostic expertise and treatment, facilitation of transfers, team communication, and education.

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