The excitement of opening a new unit or a department expansion is palpable. Not only is the staff excited about working in new construction and quite often utilizing new equipment, but also the statement that a new unit says to the hospital staff and community. The support of the physicians, staff, and community have allowed for the expansion/renovation of the hospital.
However, nothing can dampen the excitement of new construction more than negative comments about the design and function of the unit, or the project in general. In order to minimize negative surprises and to maximize buy in from the staff, I offer some suggestions to ensure ease of transition, functionality, and efficiency.
Communication is the key to designing a space that meets the needs of all the stakeholders and to keep the project on budget.
- Architect meetings. Before the first conceptual design is drawn, the architects need to meet with everyone that could possibly touch the unit. The meetings can be very large and cumbersome at first, but as the design begins to take shape and finalize, the tweaks and final adjustments can be approved by the department managers, physicians, and administration.
Let’s take the example of a new emergency department. This department touches the whole hospital and the community. I recommend that the following stakeholders are included.
- Emergency room physicians
- Surgeons for trauma rooms
- Attending and hospitalist physician staff (actually all medical staff departments should at least have a chance in the preplanning)
- Nurses and all clinical personnel
- Ancillary departments such as radiology, lab, housekeeping, etc.
- Paramedics, fire and police departments
- Community and church leaders
This may not be an exhaustive list, but you can see how encompassing it can be.
- Visit neighboring or sister facilities to see what they like and do not like. Even a competitor will want to show off their facility and give advice. Travel to a facility that you think is the best example for the project you are trying to implement.
- Weekly or bi-weekly meeting should be attended by the department managers and stakeholders. These meetings should have plenty of preparation. It is not a time to review the last meetings changes. These meetings are intended to review the changes that were communicated in the previous meeting. Once a new rendering is presented, it should be taken to the stakeholders for review and comment. Those comments should be communicated to the architects.
- Prior to final approval, present the plans to the original groups. Explain that minor changes can be made, but that the plans are substantially completed. Everyone should be very proud of their contributions and if something was not included, explain why.
- During construction, keep everyone informed. If the project will take 14 months, there should be at least monthly updates in the hospital newsletter, local papers, and television stations.
- A note on equipment planners. This is an excellent place for value engineering. Not every piece of equipment needs to be or should be new.
New construction can be the most exciting and frustrating project that is undertaken. By being inclusive, communicating regularly, and being specific in the planning process, the new unit can be the pride and joy of the hospital and community for a very long time.
Josh Putter is currently a consultant with DCCS Consulting. According to the company’s website, “DCCS is a full-service consulting firm with a strong foundation in healthcare leadership focused on responding to the exponential changes affecting today's healthcare.”
Prior to his work at DCCS, Mr. Putter was President of Steward Health Care in Boston; Division President, Division Five (Florida), with Health Management Associates, Inc. in Naples, Florida; CEO of the Charlotte Regional Medical Center in Punta Gorda, Florida; CEO of the Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma, in Durant; CEO of Highlands Regional Medical Center in Sebring, Florida; CEO of Brazos Valley Medical Center in Bryan/College Station, Texas; and Assistant Executive Director of Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas. He also spent 2 years as an Owner Operator of Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, in Delray Beach, Florida.