By Stefanie Dell’Aringa
A year ago, nurses at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, a Magnet-designated tertiary care facility, gave input about how they would design a new 21,000-square-foot advanced patient care unit in the North Pavilion. That unit, which features a universal bed concept, opened in December.
“We asked several nurses, ‘If we could redesign the interior of your unit, what would it look like?’” Barbara Quandt, MSN, RN, director of medical/surgical nursing, said.
The open unit answered the nurses’ wishes to have a direct line of sight to patients. They also had input as to where they’d place Sharps containers, hand sanitizer and computers in the rooms.
The $11-million project fitted the east side of the seventh floor with a unit that can handle future expansion of critical care without additional construction. Based on observed trends, the number of ICU patients is expected to rise, according to Sheila Fata, BSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, CNO and vice president of operations.
“As the hospital continues to grow, we have a place for ICU to expand without having to tear it down,” Fata said. “We are in the midst of getting staff trained for ICU.”
Six GE monitors and 36 private patient rooms with telemetry capability enable nurses to convert beds from med/surg to critical care.
The open unit has nine nurses stations to handle the nine nurses per shift, versus four or five stations in regular units. Instead of being centrally located as on a typical unit, stations are pocketed throughout the floor so nurses can view their patients and assist other nurses. Within a month of operation, staff noticed improvements in communication, patient safety and ability to quickly locate a doctor or nurse.
Having a direct line of sight through glass doors and windows and having nurses stations close to patients may lower fall rates, according to Fata. “We expect that we’re going to be well below the benchmark based on how they’re trending,” Fata said.
One case was when charge nurse Stephen Davis, BSN, RN, came to the aid of another nurse who was helping a patient to the restroom when the patient lost her footing.
“I was sitting at one of the nurses stations right outside the door when I heard, ‘Can somebody help me really quickly?’” said Davis. “If nobody had been there, the nurse would have [had] to try to hold onto that patient while trying to press a button and then have to wait [for help].”
Patient rooms are equipped with suction setup, two oxygen sources, an in-room computer mounted on the wall with a swing arm that can be rotated when not in use, a bathroom, sofa for family members and a safe for valuables to be used when patients need to leave for procedures. Beds and chairs are equipped with alarms. Rooms face either the outside or the hospital’s healing garden. Room service is available, and for privacy, patients can lower blinds.
“It’s very beautiful and the staff is very proud,” Ruth Lira, MSN, RN, nurse manager on 7 East, said. “When we first wheeled our patients in, they had smiles on their faces that were indescribable.”
Plans are underway to duplicate the open unit in other areas of the hospital. “The next one to be built is the sixth floor,” Fata said.
Stefanie Dell’Aringa is a freelance writer.
Sidebar: Nurses note benefits of working on open unit
Nurses who work on the new Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital open unit noted the following benefits:
Easier observation of patients because of direct line of sight
Quick and easy transition of rooms from med/surg to critical care to accommodate patients’ needs
Reduced patient injuries since stations are close to rooms
An aesthetically pleasing, open and healing environment
Access to more patient rooms without additional construction