Doctors, staff inspire design of new hospital

McKenzie Berezin/Daily
The women’s clinic on the opening weekend of the new hospital on Nov. 6, 2011. Buy this photo

By Michele Narov, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 20, 2011

When administrators and architects began planning the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, they turned to their staff to help make the facility a place where they couldn't wait to come to work each day.

The $754 million, five-year project is a product of the ideas and needs of the hundreds of faculty, staff, doctors and nurses who were consulted about the new hospital, which is expected to open Dec. 4.

In an interview last month, the hospital’s Executive Director Pat Warner said hospital officials asked staff members to suggest any improvement they could think of, regardless of scale.

“When you brainstorm, you want people to give you every idea that pops into their head,” Warner said. “Then you sort through them and see if it’s feasible from an operational design standpoint.”

Consolidating department spaces

One staff member suggested the regrouping of facilities. In the past, many departments were split into various wings and floors. In the new children’s hospital, the departments are grouped together in one area with the intention of improving communication and streamlining processes.

Currently located on the eighth floor of the inpatient building in Mott, the Patient and Family Center Care Program is moving to the second floor. Additionally, the offices of the Patient and Family Center Care staff, many of which are currently across the street from the hospital in the Medical Professional Building, will be relocated to an office in the family center.

Kelly Parent, patient-family coordinator at the family center, said the scattered location of resources presented a problem for offering adequate care.

“The main thing I think our new hospital is going to improve (is that) our programs are going to be right in the middle of everything,” Parent said.

According to Parent, inpatient families have benefited the most from the center in the past, but the new location will allow outpatient families to use the facilities as well.

The regrouping will also have a major impact on clinical aspects of the hospital. Dr. John Charpie, professor of pediatric cardiology, said this is the first time cardiac surgeons with the University Hospital have been located in the same area as cardiology testing areas and outpatient clinics.

“This really allows us to function as a program that can provide all of the cardiac services to our patients in one location,” Charpie said.

Charpie said the new set up will allow for clinical, educational and research collaboration. He added that it will solve problems the hospital has had with continuity of care.

“The vast majority of criticism by families in the past was about the physical layout (of the hospital),” Charpie said. “These issues have now been removed.”

Improving patient and conference rooms

In addition to the layout of departments, staff members also gave input regarding the design of the new patient rooms. The rooms now contain features that save time in emergencies and make routine processes easier. Parent pointed to newly-installed oxygen equipment on each side of patient beds — a small addition staff members felt was important.

“This way, you’re going to have quick and easy access to hooking up a patient to whatever it is that they need no matter what side (of them) you are on,” Parent said.

Charpie said the staff also suggested patient rooms to be located across from each other so nurses stationed outside the rooms could easily monitor multiple patients simultaneously. The rooms were originally supposed to be identical and facing the same way, according to Charpie.

“The problem with that is that operationally, it does not allow a nurse to care for more than one patient at a time,” Charpie said. “Unfortunately, you don’t have one nurse for one patient everywhere throughout a hospital — that’s just not a sustainable staffing model.”

Charpie also pointed to new break-away doors in the intensive care units as additions that will allow doctors to access patients more quickly.

Dan Fischer, director of the hospital’s Child and Family Life Department, said the larger size of the new patient rooms makes his job easier. Whereas the rooms in the former facility housed two or three patients at a time, the new same-sized rooms are all singles.

“For us in child life, the space really is tremendous,” Fischer said. “We now have all kinds of patient rooms so we can do things more comfortably.”

The new hospital it is also intended to improve the work environment for staff when they’re focused on other aspects like teaching and holding conferences.

Charpie said there is a great need for the addition of conference and educational rooms for staff since teaching sessions sometimes happen in the middle of units such as the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit.

“Many times, we have our weekly conference standing in the middle of the unit and speaking with 50 people gathered around a desk,” Charpie said. “That makes it very cumbersome, and it disrupts the ICU.”

He said the new rooms will be distant enough to prevent disruption to the hospital, but close to patients so doctors will be readily available in an emergency.

“It’s really an incredible space that offers patients, families and caregivers so much more flexibility, so many more resources and so much more space than we had in our old hospital,” Charpie said.

A state-of-the-art kitchen

Staff members’ excitement about the new facility also spans down to the basement, where the food service staff are looking forward to the new kitchen. According to Diane Knibbs, associate director of food services, the old hospital’s cooking area was never designed to be an institutional kitchen.

“We couldn’t have raw food in the old kitchen,” Knibbs said. “It had to already be precooked and chilled down.”

Executive Chef Stephen Schifano describes the old kitchen, which was smaller than the new building’s dry store room, as crowded and boring.

“There was no creativity,” Schifano said.

In contrast, staff in the new facility has room to make food most people wouldn’t expect to see in a hospital.

The kitchen staff has started to experiment with different food items. The new menu features options such as Michigan cherry salad with chicken, quesadillas, a sandwich bar, breakfast wraps and Asian stir-fry dishes.

“We used to have a microwavable pizza,” Schifano said. “Now we’re making our pizzas from scratch. We have a precooked crust, but what we can do with that is unlimited. Today, I made a stuffed potato pizza.”

Some members of the staff graduated from culinary school and were trained to work in a facility like the new hospital’s kitchen, Schifano said. The staff can now put their culinary skills to use, he said, instead of just reheating frozen food.

“The sky is the limit,” Schifano said. “With their knowledge and experience and with the help of the dietitians here, we’re going to be able to create anything.”

Schifano said the new kitchen has changed the way he feels about what he does every day.

“I get up at 3:30 in the morning,” he said. “And these last few weeks, I’ve never been more excited to come to work.”

Schifano added that he feels the same kind of positive energy from his staff, who love the new kitchen and equipment.

“I walk in the door, and they already have the stuff lit up on the stove. They already have everything on and ready to go,” Schifano said. “That tells me they’re excited.”

Taking pride in the new facility

The sense of pride in the new hospital permeates every department, and is an attitude that Parent said will make the new hospital an incredible experience for patients.

“This facility is wonderful and fantastic,” Parent said. “But still, it’s the people who are going to make the difference for our patients and our families.”

Parent explained that in the past, drab facilities made the work environment less upbeat, especially in internal staffing rooms, which received no sunlight.

“They made sure that the staff rooms have external windows so people can get the sun therapy,” she said. “And they can see what’s going on, and it’s going to be really rejuvenating to be able to see outside.”

Small details like these elevate the staff’s morale, Parent said.

“I have to believe that when you feel happier you’re going to be a happier employee, and you’re going to be better,” she said.

Charpie added that he thinks the facility is a reflection of what goes on within its walls.

“We feel that we’ve been practicing world-class medicine at a top institution for a long time,” Charpie said. “And now, we feel we have the physical place to support that contention, and I think that’s a real source of pride for everyone.”