AACN Beacon Award for Excellence logoLITTLE ROCK, AR. (Jan. 31, 2024) – The Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) 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. It is one of just 11 NICUs in the nation 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. For patients and their families, the Beacon Award signifies exceptional care in a unit that puts patients first. For nurses, this award can mean a positive and supportive work environment with greater collaboration, higher morale and lower turnover.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s NICU, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) are the only intensive care units in the state to receive Beacon honors. The ACH CVICU received the Gold-level Beacon Award in 2022 and the PICU received the Silver-Level Beacon Award in 2021.

The ACH NICU, which provides comprehensive surgical and intensive care for newborns and premature infants, is Arkansas’ only level 4 NICU, the highest designation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The Gold-Level Beacon Award serves as a powerful reminder of our team's dedication to creating a better today and a healthier tomorrow for children in Arkansas,” said Heather Cherry, DNP, MHA, R.N., NE-BC, chief nursing officer for Arkansas Children’s Hospital. “Our NICU team is unwavering in its commitment to providing exceptional patient- and family-centered care, ensuring that babies can go on to flourish after they leave ACH.”

The Gold-Level Beacon Award for Excellence earned by the ACH NICU 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.


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 is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report in seven pediatric subspecialties (2023—2024): Cancer, Cardiology & Heart Surgery, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Nephrology, Orthopedics, Pulmonology & Lung Surgery 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 archildrens.org.

ABOUT THE BEACON AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE: 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 www.aacn.org/beacon or call (800) 899-2226.

ABOUT THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CRITICAL-CARE NURSES: 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 www.aacn.org, connect with the organization on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aacnface or follow AACN on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aacnme.


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