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Teamwork and Commitment to Excellence

Oct. 11, 2020

Nurses in Burns Special Care Unit at UC Medical Center exemplify the qualities that make UC Health world class in patient care.


In August 2020, the American Nurses Association (ANA) recognized burn nursing as a new specialty nursing practice. This practice of nursing focuses on treating burn patients and helping to prevent infection that could be life threatening. These nurses have to not only work hard but also collaborate to ensure patients receive the best care.

“We are honored that the ANA has acknowledged the required expertise of burn nursing as a nursing specialty,” said Grace Schmits, RN, UC Medical Center Burns Special Care Unit nursing leader. “Burn nursing is a demanding and incredibly rewarding area of nursing practice.”

Burn nurses are specially trained and educated, and demonstrate a clinical expertise blended with human compassion. Burn nurses are active in:

  • Outreach education and injury prevention.
  • Emergency care.
  • Inpatient hospital care.
  • Post-acute rehabilitation care.
  • Outpatient care.
  • Psychosocial care across the recovery continuum.
  • Community reintegration.
  • Community and regional partnerships.
  • Global health and disaster preparedness.
  • Advocacy at the local, regional and national levels.

Although people may be less familiar with burn nursing, these inspiring caregivers are an important part of most tertiary care health systems, including UC Health. UC Medical Center has the region’s only adult burn center.

“Our burn nurses are honored to participate in the very important role of relieving human suffering while they care for patients every shift,” Grace said.

On the fifth floor of UC Medical Center is the Burns Special Care Unit, led by Elizabeth Dale, MD, director and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Physicians and nurses work tirelessly to give patients the best experience they can. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, you will find these nurses working hard — together — to do the best job they can and to continue to set high standards.

These standards have led to positive results for both the health system and the unit, respectively. The unit consistently provides high-quality care, and patients frequently report excellent experiences — fulfilling UC Health’s purpose to advance healing and reduce suffering. Patients always seem to remember their nurses and the great care they received.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to treat, support and promote the recovery of the burn-injured patient and their loves ones,” Grace added.

Grace and some of the burn nurses shared their experience working together to treat patients. Their success is a result of constant communication and teamwork.

“The burn unit team has been successful for numerous reasons, mainly because our workforce is built upon a foundation that encompasses staff from different areas of expertise,” said Chad McGarvie, RN. “We have developed a team, which included experienced surgeons, intensivists, therapists and nurses, who chose to hone their skills so burn victims may once again live a functional lifestyle.”

In order to ensure that patients receive world-class care, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses must collaborate with each other to ensure proper procedures are followed, such as hand hygiene and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Why Burn Nursing?

When asked why they chose burn nursing, nurses conveyed similar themes – teamwork and compassion.

“I became a nurse to be part of healing. With burn patients, we have the opportunity to work with patients and families from admission through discharge,” said Annanth Waraich, RN. “We become very involved with patients and their families. It’s a bonding and supportive experience that allows me to be part of our mission at UC Health — to advance healing and reduce suffering.”

Nurses in the unit are passionate about what they do on a daily basis. They feel that the best reward is seeing patients recover after arriving at UC Medical Center in dire condition.

Goal Setting

The team gets together regularly to discuss their goals for each year, accomplishments and things they need to improve upon. All of their goals are aligned with the goals of the hospital.

“One particular procedure that has enabled our team to become successful relates to performance improvement,” Chad said. “We have been able to identify areas for improvement, which we then discuss as a multidisciplinary team. In doing so, we are successfully advancing our practice and patient care standards.”

Like many of the other units at UC Medical Center, UC Health’s West Chester Hospital and Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care, COVID-19 has presented new challenges. However, the burn unit team has remained dedicated to their work to their patients and coworkers. They feel confident that this experience will make them even stronger.

“Working in the Burn Unit can be very challenging, but it’s also very rewarding,” said Emily Orue, RN. “The healing of severe burns can be a longer process than most people realize. The human body is amazing, and I love being a part of our patients’ journey.”

As the team finishes 2020 and moves into 2021, they will continue to sustain the success they have achieved over the past few years. They will also look at ways to improve and become an even better unit.

“I look forward to continuing my career in burn nursing in the future, as I continue to strengthen and demonstrate expertise in burn nurse clinical skills,” Annanth said.

Grace and the rest of the team feel confident that they will achieve more success as a unit in the future, thanks to their teamwork and commitment to each other.

“I work with the most incredible people in the organization, and I think that’s why the team works so well together,” Grace said. “I’ve always felt honored and blessed to work with these individuals.”

UC Medical Center offers world-class care to patients across Greater Cincinnati. The Burns Special Care Unit exemplifies this mission every day.