An all new NCCU
Date: January 3, 2012
In April 2012, a decade of planning and some three years of construction culminates in the opening of two new clinical buildings—the Sheikh Zayed Tower and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center—that will revolutionize experiences for patients across The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Of particular importance for neurology and neurosurgery patients, the Zayed Tower will house a substantially larger neurosciences critical care unit (NCCU) specifically designed to eliminate challenges often inherent with older hospital buildings.
“Most hospitals have been built piece by piece,” says Neurosurgery Director Henry Brem, “just as our historic buildings were. It’s natural growth, but its chaotic growth that can lead to a very confusing experience for patients. They may have lab tests in one place, see their doctor in another, and go for rehabilitation in a completely different location. In our new buildings, form follows function.”
The third floor of the Zayed Tower is devoted to the neurosciences, Brem says, with patient services located in close proximity to each other.
“It will be the same floor for operating room suites for our neurosurgeons, the same floor for our interventional neuroradiologists, the same floor for recovery rooms for our neurosurgical patients,” he explains.
“It’s a great safety measure,” adds Gail Biba, nurse manager for the NCCU. “Our patients won’t need to be put on an elevator until they’re transferred out of the unit. That means there’s less chance of lines becoming disconnected or pumps becoming tripped by movement. It’s going to be a very significant way to improve efficiency and, at the same time, protect our patients.”
The buildings were also designed to make the care environment welcoming. For example, each patient room in the NCCU has its own window to flood the area with natural light. The family waiting area is also completely surrounded by windows. Every decorating touch from the colors of the walls to the hardwood floors was chosen to make patients and their loved ones feel more at ease in what is usually a stressful setting.
“We wanted to help people feel like they’re sitting in a family-style living room rather than a hospital waiting area,” Biba says. “We wanted to lessen the emotional impact of being in the hospital.”
Another item on planners’ to-do lists was eliminating the overhead paging system, says NCCU director Marek Mirski. Rather than having to rely on an intercom, he says, each member of the patient care team will carry a cell phone for taking calls and receiving critical lab values. All nurses and doctors caring for each patient will receive information at the same time, allowing quicker action.
Furthermore, Mirski says, with patient rooms that are 90 square feet larger than those in the current NCCU, care providers will have 50 percent more space in which to maneuver.
“Many of the therapeutic devices that are needed to manage critically ill patients, such as multiple IV poles, cooling and warming blankets, and dialysis equipment, weren’t considered commonplace 30 years ago,” Mirski says. “Our new unit accommodates the care we’re delivering today.”
That includes dedicated teleconferencing space and patient rooms individually equipped for videoconferencing—communication now considered vital for providing consults with other medical centers and preparing patients for transfer.
“Each of these carefully planned elements,” Mirski says, “is creating an entirely new era for the NCCU at Johns Hopkins.”