Anne Wagner, MD

Burn Center Breaks Down Silos

Below her email signature line, Anne Wagner, MD, FACS, includes a quote from the artist/musician, Prince (1958-2016): 

“Compassion is an action word without boundaries.” 

She says the quote reminds her to put her patients and families first. Yet her colleagues know she exemplifies these words beyond her patients. 

(Pictured left to right: Laura Madsen, RN (Burn Outreach Coordinator), Linda Staubli (Burn Coordinator), Dr. Wagner (center), Cameron Bell, CNS (Burn Center) and Taylor Sherwood (Burn Tech)

“Dr. Wagner gives state of the art care,” Richard D. Schulick, MD, MBA, FACS, said. “In addition, she nurtures the other physicians, trainees and staff who are on her team and also improves their lives. Since she has joined the University of Colorado, the burn service has been growing by leaps and bounds.” 

As medical director of the Burn Center at University of Colorado Hospital, Dr. Wagner leads a multidisciplinary team serving patients coming out of the acute phase of burn injury. They provide wound care and pain and scar management. 

Dr. Wagner’s goal is to ensure that every patient receives the level of care she would want for her own family. She’s also striving to be an effective leader, which she describes as world-class. 

“It’s a very difficult field, and our people went into burn because they’re passionate,” she said. “Everyone on our team comes to work ready to do what’s best for our patients.” 

The culture she’s helping to create puts patients at the center while empowering every team member to work outside of the silos that can be typical in medicine. 

“You cannot work independently in a unit like this,” she said. “We’ve become a family where everyone wants to help out, and we never let one person do all the work. If the phone rings, any one of us could answer. There’s no top to bottom in burn.” 

UCH Burn Center is the only center in Colorado verified by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons. The process to meet these demanding standards is rigorous, which puts improving quality of care at the forefront of every action.

Striving to improve quality in every corner 

Most recently, they added a burn coordinator position to manage the department’s quality improvement efforts. They’ve also instituted a monthly QI team meeting. 

“We’re looking at complications and identifying all the areas we could improve upon. We talk about what’s new in the literature, and discuss any new processes that we’ve implemented.” 

The number one cause of morbidity and mortality in a burn patient is infection. Over the last year the burn coordinator has been going through the entire unit and finding ways to increase the sterility of the environment. 

“From a nursing standpoint, we’re always looking at how we care for wounds and talk about ways to make it better,” she said. “We’ve also been focused on replacing all the filters within our hydrotherapy room to ensure that it’s sterile.” 

Another recent project was updating their commodes. Previously the unit had two in total, and now each bedside has its own commode for patient use. 

“Another thing we’re working on is replacing the chairs in our unit. Our conference room is used for patient support group meetings, and the chairs are cloth and not easily cleaned. So we’re updating all of the chairs to a better material that’s easy to sterilize.” 

Beyond the unit itself, they’ve changed some processes that Dr. Wagner believes improves the level of service they provide to the hospital. Now any consult calls go straight to their physicians. 

Dr. Wagner credits her team for their unit’s success. 

“We’re all working for the same goal. It’s my job as a leader to make sure the team knows how much they are valued. I want to be sure that everyone on the team feels respected.” 

The level of respect she has for her team has been noted around the hospital. 

“The feedback I hear from many corners is that her leadership is recognized by nursing staff and that the team culture she is building in the burn program is palpable,” said Ethan Cumbler, MD, FACP, FHM. 

Extending care beyond the burn unit

Dr. Wagner and her team are active in the community, working to educate emergency personnel about burns, infection control and even frostbite. They work extensively with the homeless population in Denver through their wound clinic. They also work with outside organizations to raise funds that provide boots, blankets, socks and sleeping bags to help protect people living on the street. 

In the coming months, Dr. Wagner hopes to find ways to expand the mental health services provided within the burn unit. She’s also interested in increasing the understanding of burns and infection control in the hospital and beyond. 

“People are scared of burns,” she said. “But we want people to come over and ask questions. Because wound care and infection control are critical aspects of caring for our vulnerable patients, we think any service could benefit from learning about how we do things.”

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