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New hospital tower designed with patient care, comfort in mind

By Brian McNeill

After six years of planning, designing that included feedback and testing by doctors and nurses and $89 million worth of construction, the new eight-story patient tower at Boone Hospital Center will open next month.

The expansion on the southwest side of the medical complex began with the building of a parking garage and a facelift for Williams Street. The county hospital built 90 years ago has gradually become a major regional medical center.

The new patient tower has 128 beds — 40 for intensive care patients and 88 for medical and surgical patients — and it’s totally changed the way employees, doctors, visitors and patients get around to different departments, units and testing areas.

Even the 1921 time capsule has a new home.

If you’ve been to the hospital before and come to the open house on June 26, you’ll notice the transformation as soon as you step through the main entrance.

Gone is the small lobby with a cramped area for patient registration. The hospital’s old lobby will be renovated into a bistro area.

A sweeping semicircular information desk in the hospital’s new lobby leads to four oversized registration centers that are divided by cherry wood frames and frosted glass etched with drawings of plants and birds.

Nature is the central theme of the tower, from the lobby with rich cherry wood walls and soft green carpets to patient rooms with earth-tone yellow and blue fabrics and paints. Gracing public areas throughout the tower will be the works of mid-Missouri artists selected by H&P Consultants of Columbia.

A new garden creates a natural transition from the old building to the new one.

“Natural colors and natural light can have a profoundly positive effect on a patient’s healing process,” said Mary Beck, vice president of patient services. “Our planners took that into serious consideration during the design phase.”

Also on the main floor are a gift shop with ceiling-to-floor windows and a conference center large enough to accommodate 250 people for meetings, seminars and training sessions.

“We’ve needed this much space for quite a while,” Beck said. “I imagine it will be in constant use.”

Beck has overseen the development of the patient tower since it was first put down on paper as part of Boone Hospital Center’s master plan in March 2006. By the following year, architects from HKS Architects in Northville, Mich., were at work. The master plan called for all hospital rooms to have just one patient — no more roommates, in other words.

Semiprivate rooms were built in the original building and in additions finished in 1959 and 1971. Those rooms will be converted to private rooms in the near future. The first slated for remodel is the old third floor.

Although the new tower will add patient rooms, converting semiprivate rooms in the old building will keep the total number of patient rooms at 394.

Caregivers help design ICU rooms

The waiting area of the intensive care unit is large enough for 64 people, yet its design creates areas for privacy. A consult room is available for physicians and nurses to talk with patients’ family members.

Cherry wood laminate walls coat the standardized ICU room in a warm, cozy glow, and it’s divided into zones. The caregiver zone just inside the room features a work area and data ports. The patient zone includes features designed for optimum rest and comfort. A shelf opposite a patient’s bed is placed high enough to let him or her easily see flowers and gifts, for example.

“It’s a little touch that can mean a lot toward patient satisfaction,” Beck said.

Then there’s the family zone, which has a sofa that turns into a twin-size bed. The sofa sits below a window that takes up nearly all of one side of the room. The wall is built at an outward angle so that the window catches as much natural light as possible.

The sinks and countertops are all made of one piece; there are no cracks or areas that can be difficult to keep clean. This will help reduce bacteria, which in turn will help reduce the risk of infections.

Beck said all types of direct patient care providers — physicians, nurses, therapists, dietitians, technicians — were consulted while the prototype hospital rooms were designed. They were then asked to try out a detailed mockup of the room, which was created in an old garage on the hospital campus. “We even duplicated the exact location of each electrical and gas outlet,” Beck said.

In BHC’s patient tower, every room is exactly the same so clinicians can step from one room to another and everything will be in the same location. “To do that required separate plumbing stacks instead of sharing plumbing stacks by mirroring the rooms,” Beck said. “That added to the cost, but we felt it was crucial for improved patient care.”

Workers complete the electrical wiring of the information desk in the new lobby at Boone Hospital Center.

Decentralized work stations

What years ago were called nurses stations are now called work stations. They’ve gotten smaller, and there are more of them on each floor. Beck said patient care has become so multidisciplinary that a work station must be designed to meet the needs of all hospital staff members.

Because of the number of private rooms on each floor and the distance staff must travel to and from one centralized work station, decentralizing multiple work stations makes it easier for clinicians to access patient rooms.

“Staff won’t be walking long distances just to keep track of their patients,” Beck said.

With patient rooms located on the perimeter, each floor’s center contains work stations and three medicine rooms, three supply rooms and three rooms for utilities and soiled linen. Each of the rooms has a door at each end so that staff can access from either of the two hallways.

All of the interior walls facing the hallways are angled to match the exterior windowed wall. The angle enables clinicians to easily glance into each room as they walk down the hallway instead of having to turn their head from side to side.

The angled walls also provide a nook at the entrance to each room where nurses can park their work stations on wheels without protruding into the 8-foot-wide corridor. An isolation closet is located after every other room. The nooks also feature data ports in case the wireless network is unavailable.

At the end of each hallway is a large picture window to provide views of the city and to let in more natural light. Underneath are built-in benches for visitors.

Room for expansion

Patient rooms will occupy the second through fifth floors, with the sixth and seventh floor reserved for eventual expansion.

“I was director of the hospital’s emergency department when it expanded from eight to 12 patient beds in 1994,” Beck said. “At the time we thought that would be the only expansion we’d ever need.” The emergency department now has 16 beds.

The eighth floor is the mechanical “penthouse” for utilities.

The hospital’s lab services will be on the ground floor, which isn’t finished; it’s scheduled to open later this year and end up costing an additional $5.9 million.

Overall, more than 1,400 workers were involved in the construction, which Beck called “a positive step during a difficult time in our local economy.”

Workstations in the new patient tower put staff closer to patients’ rooms.

Energy-saving features

Boone Hospital Center’s new patient tower will attempt to be certified as energy efficient by an independent group using a rating known as LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Here are some features of the building:


• The site landscaping will function as a natural system with Missouri-native plantings and grasses, which will hold soil from erosion, soak up and filter stormwater runoff and provide food and cover for wildlife.

• Large canopy shade trees will be planted around the parking lot, along Williams Street and near all paved areas to provide protective shade and a windbreak and to absorb rainwater.

Energy-saving design

• The heating, air conditioning and ventilating systems are designed to achieve a 14 percent savings in energy consumption.

• Solar collector panels are being placed on the roof for supplemental preheating of hot water.

• Water use will be reduced by the use of low-flow toilets, urinals, showers and faucets. Public restrooms will have automatic sensor controls.

• Occupancy sensors will be used in staff areas to provide automatic control of lighting.

• Exterior windows are triple insulated to minimize heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.

Recycled materials

• Up to 20 percent of the materials used in construction have recycled products as part of their makeup.

• Materials that are produced and manufactured within a 500-mile radius of Boone Hospital Center were specified for the project.

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