Date: May 14, 2012
Scrubbing, packing, hauling, remembering, planting, comforting, weeping, moving, celebrating, listening: The days before the Sheikh Zayed Tower and Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center officially opened on May 1 were a nonstop blur of activity and reflection for thousands of Johns Hopkins Hospital employees.
Most important, though, was the safe transition of 271 patients from the historic hospital to the new facility, a carefully choreographed process that involved four years of advance planning, training, and scores of simulations—and ultimately involved some 3,700 Hopkins staff members.
The heart of the operation was a bustling command center in the Zayed Adult Tower, where executive administrators Christina Lundquist and Ted Chambers gathered their team at 6 am on Sunday morning for an initial briefing before the move officially commenced one hour later.
Over the course of the next two days, the team tracked each patient’s progress on four flat-screen TVs and was on hand for trouble-shooting. A Pyxis machine set at 95 degrees? No problem. Missing keys? We’ll get them up to you. Stuck elevator? Facilities engineers are on the way. Representatives were on hand to assist with nursing, clinical operations, and medical issues; there were also teams from IT, clinical engineering, facilities, telecom, and other logistical support on standby.
A large screen in the front of the room offered “big picture” tracking, documenting the relocation status of entire departments. Midday on Sunday, Lundquist took a call from the nurse manager of the pediatric intensive care unit, who reported that the last patient had been safely nestled into a new room in the Bloomberg Tower.
Lundquist’s next move was a bit unorthodox, but it became a symbol for the transition into the new clinical buildings. She rang a cowbell, and the dozens of staff in the command center broke into cheers. This ritual was repeated over the two-day period as each of the 20 hospital units and the adult and pediatric emergency departments completed transporting patients to their destinations.
“From my perspective, the move was flawless,” said Karen Haller, vice president for nursing and patient care services at the hospital. “When patients’ families arrived on the units, they exuded confidence in the teams. And the patients waved and cheered with us. It was fun.”
Many Hopkins faculty and staff offered tender farewells to the crowded units, dark corridors, and bilious color schemes they were leaving behind. While combing through old log books, photos, and other memorabilia, they thought of lives saved and lives lost.
“I spent 25 years in those other operating rooms, a good deal of that in one OR specifically, so it’s been like home to me,” said Robert Montgomery, director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center. “We took care of a lot of patients there, transformed a lot of lives during those 25 years, and I think you have to pay homage to that. So, I took a rose over to OR Room 4 yesterday and laid it inside the room and said goodbye.”
For others, though, the move couldn’t come soon enough. While packing up in Blalock, Patricia Veal, materials manager in endoscopy, got right to the point: “Goodbye to this place,” she said. “We outgrew it years ago.”
For more on the new hospital, and the potential it holds for transforming the culture of care at Johns Hopkins, read A New Day.