Comfort, Efficiency and Innovation Highlight Location G NICU

This image of a patient room shows an alcove, designed to give families some privacy during their stay in the NICU.

When Location G opens November 6, it will include a state-of-the-art, 80-bed Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that enhances comfort and safety for patients and families, enables staff to more efficiently deliver care, and improves outcomes through innovation. Here’s a look at some key features.

More Spacious, More Private Rooms

For years, space in NICU patient rooms has been sacrificed to accommodate more beds. During initial patient family focus groups for Location G, the need for more spacious patient rooms became evident. “The most common comment from patients and families was how inpatient rooms are a home away from home,” said Wendy Bankes, senior director, Planning. “For many NICU families, the inpatient room acts as a nursery, living room and bedroom.” In response to the comfort and safety needs of our families, our partners at ZGF and GBBN Architects designed rooms with more space, including separate patient, family and clinical zones, and Messer Construction executed those plans to help to increase privacy for patients and families. Outside the rooms, hallways have alcoves that allow nurses to observe at least two inpatient rooms, while still maintaining privacy because the family space is not directly observable when looking in. The increase in space benefits staff as well. With separate clinical zones, nurses have additional room to perform the numerous tasks associated with critical patient care.

Pass-Throughs Maximize Space, Efficiency

To further maximize space and efficiency, pass-throughs have been installed in each room, enabling staff to stock critical items and empty trash without entering. Inside the room, those items can quickly be accessed when needed. Pass throughs also minimize interruptions for medical staff providing care. “Pass-throughs demonstrate the effort we made in striking an ideal balance between privacy, comfort and care,” said Jim Greenberg, MD, co-director of the Perinatal Institute. “Usually, staff will need to enter inpatient rooms several times a day to stock critical supplies. While this is necessary, those tasks can disturb patients and families. We wanted a way for those tasks to be accomplished with a minimum of patient interruptions.” Other hospitals have pass-throughs, but the Location G planning team went several steps further than typical with a user-centered design. End users were consulted about their needs and provided input on access and security and medication protection, and designers tested pass-through mock-ups. “Staff tested at least half a dozen iterations, and each iteration was more efficient and had fewer complaints until we landed on a design that would be efficient for staff and create less noise and disruptions for patients,” said Greenberg.

Just Passing Through...

Wendy Bankes, senior director, Planning, demonstrates how the pass-through works in the new NICU that will open in Location G this fall. Staff will be able to restock supplies and empty trash without disturbing families or interrupting care.

Spectral Lighting: Improving Outcomes with Innovation

The natural world sometimes inspires medical innovation, and one example is built into our new NICU. “The average length of stay in the NICU is long because the patient population is one that is developing dramatically from day to day,” said Greenberg. “Also, ICUs in general are challenging places for people of any age because there aren’t many windows and it’s difficult to distinguish between day and night.” These day-night cycles, typically referred to as circadian cycles, affect many of our bodily functions during fetal life. Circadian biology impacts functions with our brains, eyes, fat, immune systems and other metabolic processes. In the last 20 years, there has been a lot of new understanding about circadian cycles, and NICUs have been interested in methods that can mimic circadian cycles in an attempt to make things a little more normal for NICU patients. Recent discoveries have revealed that we have sensors in our body that detect wavelength colors that modulate functions within our bodies. Many of those discoveries were made at Cincinnati Children’s by a multi-institutional team of scientists led by Richard Lang, MD, professor of Pediatric Ophthalmology.

These discoveries led to the implementation of spectral lighting—an LED system that mimics the various wavelengths that occur in natural outdoor settings—within the NICU.

“It may sound corny, but this could be a true ‘Eureka’ moment,” Lang said. “Scientists at Cincinnati Children’s, and likely many other institutions, will be studying ways to translate these findings into real-world applications.” Cincinnati Children’s will measure lighting in the NICU with custom-made portable spectrometers at numerous times and in several locations, even within IsolettesTM. Additionally, a spectrometer was installed on the roof of Location T to act as a daylight control, because that location is the area’s highest point with no obstructions. Said Greenberg, “Observations will take time, but we expect this first-of-its-kind application of spectral lighting will positively impact NICU patients for years to come.”

The Welcome Desk is getting some finishing touches before Location G opens in November.

A rooftop sensor on top of Location T acts as a daylight control for the spectral lighting system in the NICU.

Spectral lighting in action in the NICU.

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