LITTLE ROCK, AR. (Oct. 14, 2022) – The Arkansas Children’s Heart Institute Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) has received a Gold-Level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), distinguishing the unit’s exceptional patient care and healthy work environments as the only pediatric CVICU in surrounding states to achieve the honor.

The Beacon Award for Excellence recognizes unit caregivers who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with AACN’s six Healthy Work Environment Standards. Units that achieve this three-year, three-level award with a gold, silver or bronze designation meet national criteria consistent with Magnet Recognition, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award.

The CVICU, which provides comprehensive surgical and intensive care for children across the region with heart disease and defects, previously achieved Silver-Level in 2019. The AACN recognized the ACH Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), which cares for the state’s most critically ill and injured children, with a second Silver-Level Beacon Award in 2021. Arkansas Children’s CVICU and PICU, both at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, are the only intensive care units in the state to be awarded Beacon honors.

“This Gold-Level Beacon Award is an excellent symbol of our team’s commitment to create a better today and healthier tomorrow for Arkansas children,” said Kris Maddalena, MSN, chief nursing officer for Arkansas Children’s Hospital. “Our CVICU team is dedicated to creating excellent patient- and family-centered care so children facing pediatric heart disease can thrive. We are especially proud that Arkansas Children’s is the only pediatric CVICU in surrounding states to achieve this distinction.”

The CVICU is a component of the Arkansas Children’s Heart Institute, with two cardiovascular operating rooms, two state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs, heart-lung bypass technology and outpatient services that include regional clinics. The Heart Institute provides comprehensive congenital cardiac care for a lifetime, from fetal echo interpretation before a baby is born to full support for adults with congenital heart disease.

The Gold-Level Beacon Award for Excellence earned by the CVICU signifies an effective approach to policies, procedures and processes that includes engagement of staff and key stakeholders. The unit has evaluation and improvement strategies in place and excellent performance measures when compared to relevant benchmarks.

The CVICU earned its Gold-Level Award by meeting the following evidence-based Beacon Award for Excellence criteria:

  • Leadership Structures and Systems
  • Appropriate Staffing and Staff Engagement
  • Effective Communication, Knowledge Management and Learning and Development
  • Evidence-Based Practice and Processes
  • Outcome Measurement


Arkansas Children's is the only healthcare system in the state solely dedicated to caring for Arkansas' more than 700,000 children. The private, non-profit organization includes two pediatric hospitals, a pediatric research institute and USDA nutrition center, a philanthropic foundation, a nursery alliance, statewide clinics, and many education and outreach programs — all focused on fulfilling a promise to define and deliver unprecedented child health. Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) is a 336-bed, Magnet-recognized facility in Little Rock operating the state’s only Level I pediatric trauma center; the state's only burn center; the state's only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit; the state's only pediatric intensive care unit; the state’s only pediatric surgery program with Level 1 verification from the American College of Surgeons (ACS); the state’s only magnetoencephalography (MEG) system for neurosurgical planning and cutting-edge research; and the state's only nationally recognized pediatric transport program. Arkansas Children’s Hospital is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report in seven pediatric specialties (2022—2023): Cancer, Cardiology & Heart Surgery, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Pulmonology and Urology.  Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW), the first and only pediatric hospital in the Northwest Arkansas region, is a level IV pediatric trauma center. ACNW operates a 24-bed inpatient unit; a surgical unit with five operating rooms; outpatient clinics offering over 20 subspecialties; diagnostic services; imaging capabilities; occupational therapy services; and Northwest Arkansas' only pediatric emergency department, equipped with 30 exam rooms. Generous philanthropic and volunteer engagement has sustained Arkansas Children's since it began as an orphanage in 1912, and today ensures the system can deliver on its promise of unprecedented child health. To learn more, visit


Established in 2003, the Beacon Award for Excellence offers a road map to help guide exceptional care through improved outcomes and greater overall patient satisfaction. U.S. and Canadian units where patients receive their principal nursing care after hospital admission qualify for this excellence award. Units that receive the Beacon Award for Excellence meet criteria in six categories: leadership structures and systems; appropriate staffing and staff engagement; effective communication, knowledge management, and learning and development; evidence-based practice and processes; and outcome measurement. To learn more, visit or call (800) 899-2226.


Founded in 1969 and based in Aliso Viejo, California, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is the largest specialty nursing organization in the world. AACN represents the interests of more than half a million acute and critical care nurses and includes more than 200 chapters in the United States. 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. To learn more about AACN, visit, connect with the organization on Facebook at or follow AACN on Twitter at

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