In 2021, 188 Hospital Units Receive Beacon Awards

Feb 16, 2022

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Units at 126 hospitals – including the first unit to earn a fifth consecutive award – receive Beacon Awards for Excellence in 2021 for demonstrating evidence-based practice to improve patient, family outcomes.

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. — Feb. 16, 2022 — The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) recognized 188 units from 126 hospitals that earned the Beacon Award for Excellence between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021. (View recipient list.)

The Beacon Award for Excellence lauds hospital units that employ evidence-based practices to improve patient and family outcomes. The award provides gold, silver and bronze levels of recognition to hospital units that exemplify excellence in professional practice, patient care and outcomes. Recognition is for a three-year term.

AACN President Beth Wathen, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, praises the exemplary efforts of the unit teams who achieved the Beacon Award for Excellence.

“Meaningful recognition takes on even greater relevance and importance as we continue to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Being recognized as a Beacon unit underscores these teams’ ongoing commitment to providing safe, patient-centered and evidence-based care to patients and families. This achievement is a tremendous honor to those who have worked so hard to achieve excellence in patient care and positive patient outcomes.”

Beacon-designated units meet the criteria in five categories, all of which are consistent with other national awards, including the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program®, the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award and National Quality Forum’s Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality awards. Units that receive the Beacon Award demonstrate practices that align with AACN’s Healthy Work Environment standards.

Recipients of a gold-level Beacon Award demonstrate staff-driven excellence in sustained unit performance and improved patient outcomes that exceed national benchmarks. Silver-level recipients demonstrate continual learning and effective systems to achieve optimal patient care. Bronze-level awardees demonstrate success in developing, deploying and integrating unit-based performance criteria for optimal outcomes.

In all, 58 units received gold-level Beacon awards, the program’s highest distinction. Among the 2021 recipients, University of California Davis Health System in Sacramento and University of North Carolina (UNC) Medical Center each had four units recognized with gold-level awards, with a fifth unit at UNC earning a silver-level award. St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood, Kentucky, had three units earn gold-level awards.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles had four units recognized with Beacon awards in 2021, with two gold-level awards and two silver-level awards. VCU Health System in Virginia, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, each had two units receive gold-level awards and a third unit was recognized with a silver-level award.

The medical intensive care unit (MICU) at ChristianaCare, Newark, Delaware, becomes the first unit in the United States to renew its Beacon Award for the fifth consecutive three-year cycle, earning gold-level recognition in 2021. In addition, two other units at ChristianaCare were recognized with silver-level awards.

“Through their relentless and uncompromising pursuit to deliver care that is nonpareil, the nurses of ChristianaCare’s MICU have become the paragon of what our profession can accomplish,” said Ric Cuming, EdD, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, ChristianaCare’s chief nurse executive and ChristianaCare HomeHealth’s president. “The success that our ChristianaCare MICU has trailblazed, even in the face of this pandemic and continuously elevating benchmarks, also has catalyzed our health system’s other intensive care units to achieve unprecedented gains in safety and quality that have been recognized with the AACN’s Beacon award, the touchstone by which all critical care nursing excellence and quality are measured.”

A total of 34 hospitals had multiple units honored with an award in 2021, demonstrating excellence in caring for acutely and critically ill patients and their families. Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston had the most units earn Beacon awards, with six units recognized with silver-level awards.

In all, 25 units at 13 New York hospitals attained Beacon status in 2021, the most for any state. Northwell Health had three units at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, and two at its nearby Syosset Hospital receive Beacon awards. In Rochester, Highland Hospital, Rochester General Hospital an Unity Hospital Rochester Regional Health earned six Beacon awards, bringing the total for these area hospitals to 34 units currently recognized through the Beacon award program. Last year, University of Rochester Medical Center described its journey toward multiple Beacon awards in “The Beacon Collaborative: A Journey to Excellence,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Critical Care Nurse.

Learn more about the Beacon Award for Excellence, and read about one unit’s Beacon journey in Your Stories on the AACN website.

About the Beacon Award for Excellence: Established in 2003, AACN’s award recognizes top hospital units that meet standards of excellence in recruitment and retention; education, training and mentoring; research and evidence-based practice; patient outcomes; leadership and organizational ethics; and creation of a healthy work environment. Award criteria — which measure systems, outcomes and environments against evidence-based national criteria for excellence — provide a mechanism to initiate patient safety efforts. To learn more about the award, visit or call 800-899-2226.

About the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: For more than 50 years, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) has been dedicated to acute and critical care nursing excellence. 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. AACN is the world’s largest specialty nursing organization, with more than 130,000 members and over 200 chapters in the United States.

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, 27071 Aliso Creek Road, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656; 949-362-2000;;;