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Nurses are key members of the project team

October 2018 - On a chilly October day, Diane Desmond, RN, and Raema Howell, RN, activation leads for the new Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital (BJWCH), geared up for a working meeting on the construction site. Wearing hard hats, safety glasses and high visibility vests, they met Susan Freet and Carolyn Evans, BJWCH nurse managers, near the construction gate.

Their first time on the construction site, Evans and Freet were about to experience the physical spaces they’d seen on paper. Walking through the under-construction nursing units, they learned the proximity of the patient care stations to patient rooms, supplies and workstations, as well as the layout of the patient rooms and visibility of patients from the corridors.

An activation lead periodically since the early 2000s and most recently on the Campus Renewal Project at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, Desmond says, “a design comes to life when team members walk the building for the first time. In-depth reviews of individual spaces spark enthusiasm for the work ahead and the anticipated changes. Understanding adjacencies and distances between spaces becomes more evident.”

Freet manages BJWCH’s medical/surgical inpatient units, including oncology and colorectal, which will relocate to the third floor of the new hospital. She joined BJWCH in July and found herself quickly learning current workflows and responsibilities as well as workflows and operations in what will be a dramatically enhanced environment.

“My main objective is to understand how the layout of the new unit will meet our needs,” says Freet. “I like to visualize how our workflows will look in the future, so I took pictures and shared them with the staff. They have lots of questions. I update my staff so they feel they are being represented and their needs are being met.”

Evans appreciated establishing a physical frame of reference in the new hospital, noting features she’s happy to find in a modern, state-of-the-art hospital. She’s visualizing a healthier working environment for her teams in the areas she manages, including the intensive care unit, respiratory therapy, the second floor inpatient surgical unit, the float nursing team and the staffing office.

“There are many more work spaces on the units,” says Evans. “The patient rooms have shelves attached to the computer so we can set down medications or other supplies while accessing the patient record. The employee lounge is located in a bright corner with outstanding views, and there’s a separate locker room for their belongings.” 

A pneumatic tube system to transport specimens and medications, and a call light system integrated with nursing communications devices, will contribute to a more efficient workflow, benefiting patients and team members alike.

“We saw the medication, supply and patient rooms; the size of the family spaces; and the nurses’ stations,” says Evans. “I was struck by how expansive it is and what a fantastic state-of-the-art facility we watch being built each day.”

As activation leads, starting with design, through construction management, move-in and post-project operations, Howell and Desmond ensure the needs of hospital leaders are conveyed to the project team while helping hospital leaders understand restraints of the project. Leadership tours are an important step in the project.

“The tour is a great opportunity to start transitioning the BJWCH managers to a sense of ownership,” says Howell. “Most have been involved in the design process, and the reality now is that we are getting close to opening. I’m excited to be alongside staff who’ve been working in a 50-year-old facility. There are so many efficiencies in the new hospital. ”

Team members understandably want to see their new spaces under construction, so Evans and Freet took photos to share the experience with their teams. “I was excited to go, but I think the staff were more excited,” Freet says. “I was impressed with what I saw. The layout matched the blue prints and I could easily visualize what it will look like.”

Freet also was eager to visualize how the hospital will improve patient care delivery, with private rooms addressing many of patients’ current concerns. “Private rooms will eliminate patient concerns about privacy and infection risk, helping to increase patient satisfaction. Our patients have watched the construction of the new building and they talk about how excited they are and can’t wait to be a patient there. Our patients take great pride in BJCWH. I also hope our surrounding community takes pride in our new facility and feels we represent them well.”

Noting the advantages of private rooms, Evans also believes technology and amenities will further enhance the patient experience. “A tablet at the bedside will provide easy access to entertainment and education,” she says. “We will have dining on call, and the new call light system will directly reach the patient’s care team. The new hospital will be a beautiful environment for patients to heal with views from almost every space in the building.”

Grateful for the experience, Evans and Freet were impressed with the progress and gained a greater appreciation for the efforts of the construction team and BJWCH preparing to open the hospital next year.

“I am overwhelmingly thankful for the talented and dedicated construction crew and feel like we are in great hands,” says Freet. “I am so happy we will have a new facility with modern décor. I think employees will feel empowered and motivated to continue providing excellent care. I hope our patients grace our doors and we welcome them with the caring and warm spirit that is always BJWCH.”

Evans adds, “I’m looking forward to a smooth transition into our new space and continue to fulfill our goal of providing excellent patient-centered care.”

Carolyn Evans and Sue Freet, pictured below, gained an appreciation of the construction team and the work ahead to open a new hospital.