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Emily Shields- Team Washington DC, Team 1, Quarter 1


What would it be like to wake up every day and absolutely love what you do? Or wake up every day and know that you changed someone’s life?   Emily Shields gets to have both of those experiences every day.  She found her passion when she and her co-workers created Lifesavers in Life, a team dedicated to re-defining the level of care in ICUs. 


As a physical therapist, Emily sees many ICU patients who are very sick.  Some cannot even perform basic functions of life, activities like walking, sitting up, and talking that we all take for granted.  


In a typical ICU, the mortality rates are typically very high, running on average between 12 and 17%.* Many of the patients who survive are unable to walk again.  But at the ICU where Lifesavers in Life began, it was a different story.  Of the 25 patients they worked with, 65% were able to walk again before going home. 


So, what did Lifesavers in Life do that made a difference? They created an environment where patients got to design their own recovery plans and the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists met with each patient and their family members to develop that plan.  The patients themselves decided what they wanted to accomplish during their recovery.  They had control of their diseases rather than being at the affect of their circumstances. 


One remarkable transformation happened with a woman critically ill with ovarian cancer, unable to walk or talk.  Her only line of communication was in through writing.  Undeterred by the challenge, the physical therapists worked with her daily.  Two months later, she left the hospital, walking and talking.  She is now winning her fight against ovarian cancer, thanks in part to Lifesavers in Life.


In creating Lifesavers in Life, Emily and her team saw it could be possible to give ICU patients a more positive outcome by supporting them in an exploration of what they could achieve and what outcome they wanted to create during their stay. The ultimate goal was to have every patient dance in the celebration of life. 


Emily used the knowledge she gained from the Team Management Leadership Program to create structure around Lifesavers in Life, setting specific goals and milestones to achieve unpredictable outcomes.  But that was only the beginning. Lifesavers in Life have now set their sights on changing ICU’s around the country.  They are working to develop a case study published in a professional medical journal by 2011. 


So Emily and the Lifesavers in Life are on their way, their goal to redefine the level of care in every hospital around the country and make a profound difference in the lives of critically ill patients.




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