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2020 Sepsis Hero: Kathy Madlem

Kathy Madlem“In the first 5 years as part of that program, we dropped our sepsis mortality by more than 50%”

Kathy Madlem, BSN, RN, a nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) in San Jose, CA, has been named one of Sepsis Alliance’s 2020 Sepsis Heroes. Sepsis Alliance was pleased to invite Kathy into the circle of Sepsis Heroes, which honors people who go above and beyond in aiding with sepsis identification, recognition, and treatment, among the public and within healthcare facilities.

Kathy took the position as Sepsis Quality Improvement Coordinator at SCVMC after working for 13 years in critical care, where she saw many patients with sepsis and septic shock. “It was the most common diagnosis we had,” she said. “I started to hear that there was something you could look for and intervene earlier, preventing people from going into septic shock. I thought that was astounding and wanted to do as much as I could.” Kathy is now in charge of program development and is responsible for educating staff, creating the EHR sepsis tools and reports, the hospital policy and nurse-driven protocol, performing CMS Sep-1 chart abstractions and reporting, collection and dissemination of performance data, leading the unit-based RN sepsis champions, and organizing an annual sepsis conference in San Jose during Sepsis Awareness Month.

There were quality improvement coordinators for strokes, heart failure, and others, but none for sepsis. “I looked at other quality improvement coordinators and nurse coordinators and picked what I liked out of all of them, and their existing programs, and I developed my own.”

Kathy led the effort for SCVMC to become a TJC Sepsis Certified Center, which was achieved in September, 2018. She is also a member of the Santa Clara County Sepsis Collaborative, a network of sepsis program leaders from hospitals located in Santa Clara County. In addition to all that, Kathy is also on the Sepsis Alliance Clinical Community Advisory Committee, helping healthcare professionals learn more about sepsis care.

Initially, the hospital participated in a 5-year waiver program that allowed Kathy to participate in various sepsis educational opportunities, including subject matter experts. “In the first 5 years as part of that program, we dropped our sepsis mortality by more than 50%,” Kathy said. The system has bought more hospitals within the last year, so the sepsis programs are migrating to those facilities too. “In theory, no matter what hospital someone goes to, they should have the same standard of care,” she added.

When Kathy heard the news of the Sepsis Heroes award, she was shocked and overwhelmed, she said. “I’ve been putting in almost 80-hour weeks [because of the pandemic and the mobile testing], and I’m just so tired. It was an amazing phone call to receive.”

When Kathy isn’t at work, she spends time with her husband and her five, 4-legged friends, including 2 Clydesdale horses, which she loves to ride.

Kathy and her fellow Sepsis Heroes will be honored during the 9th Annual Sepsis Heroes gala on September 17, 2020.

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