Pun, Ely Honored for Efforts to Combat ICU Delirium

Apr 11, 2023

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Vanderbilt’s Brenda Pun and E. Wesley Ely receive AACN Pioneering Spirit Award for their collaborative research on ICU delirium transformed the care of patients receiving mechanical ventilation

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. – April 11, 2023 – The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) will present the research team of Brenda Pun, DNP, RN, and E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH, with its AACN Pioneering Spirit Award.

The AACN Pioneering Spirit Award, one of AACN's Visionary Leadership awards, recognizes significant contributions that influence progressive and critical care nursing and relate to the association's mission, vision and values. The presentation will occur during the 2023 National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition, Philadelphia, May 22-24.

For approximately 20 years, Ely and Pun have worked together at Vanderbilt Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction, and Survivorship (CIBS) Center, Nashville, Tennessee, to study critically ill patients receiving mechanical ventilation and their treatment modified to combat the debilitating effects of delirium. Their efforts helped identify delirium as one of the most critical problems facing patients in intensive care units (ICUs) and is linked with increased deaths, prolonged ICU and hospital lengths of stay and significantly higher medical costs.

The CIBS Center brings together over 90 investigators from medicine, surgery, neurology, anesthesia and psychiatry from Vanderbilt University, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville Veterans Affairs Hospital, and investigators at other institutions across the United States and beyond. Ely is an internist, pulmonologist and critical care physician who founded the center and now serves as co-director. Pun is an advanced practice nurse who serves as the center's director of data quality.

They receive the AACN award in recognition of their collaborative work over more than 20 years to develop evidence-based tools for clinicians that have proven to optimize ICU patient recovery and outcomes.

"Drs. Pun and Ely exemplify the power of interprofessional collaboration and the impact it can have on patient care, "" said AACN President Amanda Bettencourt. "Their work transformed the approach to sedation for ICU patients and demonstrated how delirium poses significant risks to patients during hospitalization and after hospital discharge."

Their research has focused on improving the care and outcomes of critically ill patients with ICU-acquired brain disease (manifested acutely as delirium and chronically as long-term cognitive impairment).

Their team developed the primary tool by which delirium is measured in ICU-based trials and clinically at the bedside in ICUs worldwide. The Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU (CAM-ICU) has been translated into 35 languages and is recommended as a standard of care by the Society of Critical Care Medicine for all patients on mechanical ventilation.

They were also instrumental in the development of the ABCDEF bundle, which provides a novel way for interprofessional ICU teams to work together to focus on pain reduction, appropriate sedation, delirium prevention, increased mobility to reduce ventilator days, improved sleep hygiene, and increased family involvement.

The CIBS Center has amassed thousands of patients for cohort studies and randomized controlled trials, and together Ely and Pun built the methodology for ICU-acquired brain disease research and newly adopted treatment paradigms, including the ABCDEF bundle.

They have designed and conduced numerous clinical trials and cohort studies in the areas of delirium and acquired-dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD), sepsis and most recently COVID-19.

In addition to his role with the CIBS Center, Ely serves as the Grant W. Liddle endowed chair in medicine, and he is a physician-scientist and tenured professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is also associate director of aging research for Tennessee Valley Veterans Affairs Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center (GRECC) in Nashville.

Pun received a bachelor's in nursing from Wheeling Jesuit University, a master's from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Ely earned undergraduate, master's in public health and medical degrees at Tulane University, New Orleans.

About the AACN Pioneering Spirit Award: The annual AACN Pioneering Spirit Award recognizes significant contributions that influence progressive and critical care nursing regionally and nationally, and relate to AACN's mission, vision and values. Recipients of this Visionary Leadership Award come from business, academia and healthcare. Other Visionary Leadership awards, AACN's highest honor, include the Lifetime Membership Award and the Marguerite Rodgers Kinney Award for a Distinguished Career.

About the National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition: Established in 1974, AACN's National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition (NTI) represents the world's largest educational conference and trade show for nurses who care for acutely and critically ill patients and their families. Bedside nurses, nurse educators, nurse managers, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners attend NTI.

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 about 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; www.aacn.org; facebook.com/aacnface; twitter.com/aacnme