Schneck completes construction of new ICU

Nurses at Schneck Medical Center are too busy to sit around and play cards.

Besides providing around-the-clock, compassionate care to their patients, they have helped design the Seymour hospital’s new intensive care unit.

The $3.4 million project is currently wrapping up, and patients were scheduled to be moved into the new wing beginning Monday, said Amy Pettit, vice president of nursing services and chief nursing officer at Schneck.

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That move was postponed, however, to allow additional testing of mechanical systems.

Although construction of the ICU took place simultaneously with the ongoing addition of the hospital’s new Professional Office Building and parking garage, which are set to open later this month, the ICU project was separate.

Design work began at the end of 2017, and construction commenced in August 2018.

Pettit was one of several hospital officials who led tours of the new facilities for staff and the media Friday afternoon.

She said the project was a result of the hospital having a strong group of doctors and nurses who are trained and board certified to care for sicker patients, both children and adults.

“We found ourselves keeping more of those patients instead of transferring them, keeping them closer to home and giving them that higher level of care that we know we can manage,” she said.

But with only seven beds available at the time, Schneck was limited, she added.

“In that space, we were kind of landlocked,” she said.

The project moved the ICU from the second floor to the fourth floor and increased the capacity from seven rooms to nine rooms, each with a private bathroom, and the square footage went up from 4,947 to 8,417, an increase of 3,470 square feet.

It also gives the hospital room to expand its operating rooms in the future, Pettit said.

“We’re recruiting physicians. We’re growing our practices, so we have to think forward and say, ‘How can we do that?’” she said.

Each of the new nine ICU rooms is under 24-hour monitoring from the wing’s control room, which is the first area people encounter after stepping off of the elevators, Pettit said.

“We are going to have a monitor tech who will watch all the telemetry and the patient monitors, including any cameras that happen to be on during that time,” she said.

The monitor techs also will control the public’s flow into and out of the ICU and moderate acute adult care unit, or MAACU, which is still under construction and will open at the end of May.

Both units will be locked, and visitors will have to check in before being granted access.

MAACU is a step down from ICU in terms of the level of patient care needed but still provides more monitoring than a regular medical unit, Pettit said.

When completed, the MAACU will have seven beds available. There are nine ICU rooms with the option to build out two more in the future when needed, Pettit said. Those two rooms are currently being used for in-patient dialysis.

Close attention was paid to even the smallest details in order to make the biggest impact for patients and the doctors and nurses who care for them.

Anyone who glances down might notice a repetitive leaf design inlaid in the floor in the hallways. The leaves are purposefully spaced exactly 10 feet apart to measure the distance patients are walking.

“This way, we can document how many feet, and that’s important for our physical therapy department to track,” Pettit said. “It helps determine if a patient is getting better or worse.”

The lights are a new type that provide bright, even lighting throughout the space and act as a T-grid to hold up the ceiling tiles.

“In addition, they can dim,” Pettit said. “A lot of times with ICU patients, you want to decrease the stimuli, so not only do the hallway lights dim, the room lights dim, too.”

Throughout the hallways along the walls, there are recessed areas or cubbies near patients’ rooms in order to get the nurses out of the nurses’ stations and closer to the patients.

From the cubbies, nurses have a direct line of sight through a window to the patient and their monitors in order to observe patients without disturbing them.

The cubbies also keep the hallways clear of equipment, Pettit said.

Two of the nine ICU rooms are isolation or negative air flow rooms so the hospital can care for patients with diseases such as tuberculosis, which is spread through the air.

The ICU rooms themselves feature state-of-the art equipment that makes it easier to care for the hospital’s most critical cases, said ICU nurse Linda Smith.

Each room has two sets of window shades — blackout and a regular sun shade — to give patients control over natural lighting levels but still give them a view of the outside, she said.

The windows are made of shatterproof glass, which prevents the patients from having to be moved during inclement weather.

Smith said the most beneficial aspect of the new ICU rooms for the nurses is the mobile booms. Each room has two booms, which are easy to move at the touch of a button.

“I’m putting no effort into it whatsoever,” she said while demonstrating how the booms operate. “A 2-year-old could move this thing.”

Booms are designed to ergonomically centralize all support equipment and utility services. They are used where there is a need for access to medical gases such as oxygen, electrical power and audio-visual data.

“It has capacity for suction, air, oxygen, it’s got a call light code button on both sides and it’s got our heart monitor,” she said.

In the past, the equipment was kept at the headboard, meaning the bed would have to be moved out to access it, making it “cumbersome” to provide care, Smith said.

“There just wasn’t much room,” she said.

By keeping cords out of the way of staff, booms reduce trip hazards and allow for easier access to patients for emergency procedures.

The mobility of the booms also provides flexibility so patients can be moved easier if they want to face a window or even if they want to sit in a chair.

“They aren’t stationary to the bed anymore,” she said.

One of the booms also stores all of a patient’s medications so nurses do not have to leave the room to retrieve them.

Besides the booms, the rooms feature mechanical remote-controlled lifts that allow a single nurse to move a patient that weighs as much as 600 pounds by herself.

“Never in my nursing career have I ever been able to do that,” Smith said.

Smith has been a nurse for 22 years and said in that time, she has suffered from a variety of ailments, including back and foot pain and fatigue.

“This equipment, if I wanted to, I could do this for 20 more years,” she said. “And this is what I love to do. This allows me to continue doing this and not get pushed out because my body can’t do it anymore.”

ICU and MAACU manager Heather Woods demonstrated how the lifts operate and said they will help prevent nurses and patients from suffering injuries.

They lower all the way to the floor to help if a patient falls and they can be used to boost up a patient in bed, turn them or lie them flat, she said. The lifts also can be used to lift the patient onto a gurney or to get them onto a bedside commode.

“It will be great for the safety of our nurses and our patients,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things about the new unit.”

Woods said staff nurses played a vital role in the project.

“We brought the staff nurses in for pretty much all of the construction project,” she said. “We flew to Dallas one day for a trip for the booms to check that all out. We looked at different ICUs and how they were constructed and took things from those ICUs and brought them into ours.”

They even did a mockup of an ICU room so nurses could come in and decide what would work and what wouldn’t.

“We wanted to incorporate them into building this because it’s their unit, and if it doesn’t work for them, then it’s not going to work, so we wanted to make sure they had a voice,” she said.