New training program pairs physicians, nurses to improve patient outcomes

The Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program enables health care teams to make impactful changes

Like football, health care is a team sport where groups of physicians, residents, physician assistants, nurses and therapists collaborate to provide the best care possible for their patients. A new program being piloted as part of the UF College of Medicine’s strategic plan is leveraging these interprofessional relationships to improve patient outcomes in Gainesville and beyond.

The Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program, or CUSP, originally developed by Johns Hopkins patient safety researchers, aims to improve the culture of patient safety while providing health teams the tools and support to address patient-safety hazards. College of Medicine participants are currently undergoing executive-level training as part of the project, an initiative positioned within the strategic plan’s value pillar. CUSP training will result in the development of physician-nurse dyads in each unit at UF Health Shands Hospital that will set quality and safety goals specific to their unit’s needs.

Nila Radhakrishnan, M.D.
Nila Radhakrishnan, M.D.

“The most exciting component of this program is the physician-nurse dyad partnership,” said Nila Radhakrishnan, M.D., a clinical associate professor, chief of the division of hospital medicine and the project champion. “With their combined expertise, our physicians and nurses know what matters most to both the patient and the unit. When you create that clear line of communication among everyone, the outcomes are going to be tremendous.”

Unit members may choose to focus on an array of safety hazards depending on their priorities, including rates of hospital-acquired infections, central line infections and falls.

Among the units piloting CUSP training are the UF Health Shands Hospital surgical intensive care units, where Philip Efron, M.D., a professor and medical director of the surgical ICUs, is working closely with Ann Malec, D.N.P., R.N., NEA-BC, a UF Health Shands associate vice president of nursing and patient services.

Efron said his departments have previously tried different approaches to address patient safety outcomes, but receiving stakeholder participation has proven most effective.

“CUSP provides a very formalized way of identifying the key goals of each health care team and ensuring everyone is involved in progressing those goals,” he said.

Malec said it makes sense to include all members of a health care team in conversations about methods for improving patient safety.

“This is truly an interdisciplinary partnership, and we appreciate the support of leadership as we implement CUSP across inpatient units,” she said. “Nurses can’t do it alone, and physician provider teams can’t do it alone. If you’re that patient in the room, you want the people caring for you to be communicating with one another, and you want to know they’re working on the best solution together.”

Following the pilot program this fall, the college’s goal is to spread CUSP training to multiple inpatient and outpatient units and to UF Health’s regional campuses in Central Florida and Jacksonville.

Radhakrishnan said standardizing the process within the units at UF Health Shands will allow for a smoother transition from one unit to the next across the health system.

“We will be a role model not just in the state, but also nationally among academic institutions who care for complex patient populations,” she said. “Patients already come here to seek the expertise available at UF Health, and this will be another reason for patients to continue doing so. Our bottom line is always how we can best serve our patients.”

About the author:

Emily Mavrakis


Emily Mavrakis, Writer for UF College of Medicine.

Emily Mavrakis is a writer for the UF College of Medicine’s communications team, where she strategizes and produces content including written articles, videos and photography to highlight the achievements and initiatives of college faculty, students, staff and alumni. She also serves as the assistant editor for the college’s print publications, Florida Physician magazine and the Dr. Gator newsletter. Prior to joining the UF Medicine staff in 2021, she served as the business reporter for the Gainesville Sun newspaper and interned as a science writer with the Florida Museum of Natural History. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UF.