Remarkable teamwork: advanced practice providers partner to support critical care unit at UW Health

Jenna Brink and Amy Chybowski
Above, from left: Jenna Brink, PA, Critical Care Medicine, BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine; Amy Chybowski, APNP, Allergy, Pulmonary, and Critical Care, Department of Medicine.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—with nationwide surges in critically ill patients and uncertain staffing in emergency and critical care hospital units—a group of advanced practice providers (APPs) from the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine and Department of Medicine embarked on a new partnership.

The two teams came together to establish a new APP cohort with dedicated training in critical care medicine to expand APP coverage of the medical intensive care unit (MICU) at UW Health’s University Hospital. With the urgency of the pandemic pressing them on, there was precious time to build and train an APP MICU care team that could provide exceptional ICU-level care to the sickest patients. The teams met that challenge with dedication and collaboration.

“Since several emergency department APP team members had already completed Critical Care training, I had a feeling we would be just the group to help,” says Jenna Brink, PA, and APP supervisor for the Department of Emergency Medicine. Brink spearheaded the creation of this new MICU APP cohort with her Department of Medicine counterpart.

Amy Chybowski, APNP, APP supervisor in the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary, and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Medicine, recognized the unique position ED-based APPs were in to step into a role in the MICU and collaborated with Brink to make a plan. “Our teams spent the summer of 2021 brushing up on all of their critical care skills,” says Brink. “Before we knew it, it was September 2021, and our project went live.”

Having completed training to support critically ill patients in the MICU with a variety of conditions—many of them life-threatening—five emergency medicine APPs began functioning in dual Emergency Medicine-Critical Care roles as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team in the MICU.

“The Trauma and Life Support Center (TLC) nurses, social work, nurse communicators, fellows and faculty were amazing with taking time to teach us the nuances that come along with inpatient medicine,” says Brink. “While changes like this aren’t always easy, we have learned that this unique relationship between the ED and MICU APP groups has many benefits which we envision growing into the future.”

The collaborative model has proven to be such a success that the APP partnership is now expanding to the intensive care unit at UnityPoint Health–Meriter Hospital, which is affiliated with UW Health and the University of Wisconsin.

“This [is an] important story of APP scope of practice and clinical program development,” says Chybowski. “It’s amazing what collaboration can accomplish.”

The Critical Care Partnership at UW Health has included the following advanced practice providers:

From the Department of Emergency Medicine:

  • Jenna Brink, PA-C
  • Michael Horowitz, PA-C
  • Jesse Jamieson, PA-C
  • Sarah Liegl, PA-C
  • Krista Morin, PA-C

From the Department of Medicine:

  • Amy Chybowski, APNP
  • Janyne Bolliger, PA-C
  • Cheyenne Heidenreich, NP
  • Courtney Hoy, APNP
  • Matthew Kempfer, NP
  • Courtney Maurer, DNP
  • Corey Smith, NP
  • Jonathan Thayer, APRN
  • Joey Thims, NP

Learn more about the Division of Critical Care Medicine in the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, or the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Department of Medicine.