Healing by design

Safety is built into every aspect of Boone’s new patient tower.

Walking down the hall, past the rooms inside Boone Hospital Center’s new patient tower, one of the first things that stands out is how the entryway to each room is slightly angled from the wall.

It’s an unusual sight.

In comparison to a traditional hallway, with the entries flat along the corridor, these doors are gently staggered, angled toward the patient’s bed.

As it turns out, the design choice goes beyond aesthetics. Hospital leaders chose to angle the doors so that doctors, nurses and caregivers could see the patient as they pass each room.

That way, a nurse just walking down the hall for another purpose can informally check the status of a dozen patients as he or she passes. More eyes on each patient mean any problems are spotted sooner and care is provided more quickly.

This attention to detail and focus on safety is everywhere inside the new patient tower.

“We’ve really focused on evidence-based practice, and how we can make our patients safer,” said Monica Smith, Boone Hospital Intensive Care Unit director. “We have put a lot of thought into working safety into our design.”

An example of a safe shower in the New Patient Tower

For example, when hospital leaders were deciding where to place the restrooms inside each patient room, they looked to the research. They found that most hospital falls happen while patients are using the restroom or moving to and from restroom.The answer was to move the restrooms closer to the patient beds and ensure they are more accessible from the bed. It’s a simple change but one that will make a meaningful difference in helping reduce dangerous falls.

Every patient room is also structured and organized for same-handedness, meaning all the equipment and supplies are located in the same location in each room.

“If you are a nurse who goes from one floor to another, you will know where everything is,” Smith said. “You don’t have to go hunting for supplies, you are more efficient and it doesn’t take any time away from caring for the patient.”

Another time-saving safety feature is the new tower’s decentralized nursing stations. Traditionally, the caregivers in each hospital unit are based around a central nursing station. This new design places smaller stations nearer to the patient rooms, allowing nurses to be more responsive and pay closer attention to patient needs.

The new rooms were also created with a focus on ensuring patients have a comforting healing environment that goes well beyond the traditional hospital setting.

Each room is set up in invisible “zones” that help establish a natural flow to the room and set aside space for caregivers and patients. The room design also recognizes the importance of family members to the healing process. Each room comes equipped with a pull-out couch for family members. Current research shows that there are better outcomes when patients and their families are active participants in the healing process.

Another easily-overlooked feature of the new rooms are the windows. The large windows and their position in the rooms are designed to maximize natural light inside the rooms. This can help preserve natural day and night body rhythms for patients facing multi-day stays in the hospital.

For Myrl Frevert, Boone Hospital’s director of Support Services, watching the tower project come together from the early plans has been “almost like a dream.”

“At every decision point, we asked, ‘What’s the right thing for the patient?’” Frevert said. “As it’s coming in to reality, I know we’re doing the best thing for our patients. This is a true healing environment for them.”

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