Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center opens new Critical Care Unit

In 2010, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) teamed with Lavallee Brensinger Architects to evaluate opportunities to increase bed capacity within the existing Medical Center. The evaluation has resulted in an Outpatient Rehabilitation Suite and a new 103,000 square foot medical office building completed in 2012. Most recently, DHMC and Lavallee Brensinger have successfully converted an existing outpatient rehabilitation facility into a new 14-bed Critical Care Unit (CCU).

The new unit is designed to create a flexible, efficient treatment environment to complement the staff. All 14 beds are acuity-adaptable to accommodate varying levels of critical care, the first of their kind within the facility. To ensure that desired goals were being achieved, a full scale mockup of the room was built and analyzed during design. This process resulted in a layout that maximizes flexibility for all types of treatments. Additionally, decentralized workstation locations now allow caregivers multiple levels of observation. This reduces response times and allows staff the ability to monitor patients, throughout the unit, in a manner consistent with their acuity level. The work core was designed around LEAN practices of locating equipment and supplies in locations optimal to their use.

Implementing a LEAN process minimizes the need for future renovations, further extending the longevity of this cutting-edge unit. Lavallee Brensinger and DHMC are monitoring the effectiveness of the unit to determine what lessons can be learned and applied to future projects, and will be presenting their statistical findings at the national Healthcare Design Conference this November. According to Charlie Welch, Director of Operational Services at DHMC, response to the layout has been overwhelmingly positive: “The increased and decentralized equipment storage and medical supply space has helped eliminate clutter in the corridors. Nursing staff also appreciate the monitoring alcoves close to their patients.”

Another of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s imperatives for the design was the emphasis on family engagement throughout the treatment and recovery process. Loved ones will now be able to comfortably stay alongside the patient within the room.   Each new private room provides a defined family area with a daybed, dedicated television, and separate environmental controls. In addition, the new department entrance opens to a spacious waiting room with expanded seating, beverage station, computer stations, and shower facilities to enable loved ones to remain connected during longer-term stays.

Ultimately, the greatest testament to the success of the new unit is the response of those living and working within it. “Overall, the staff is very happy with the new space and the unit layout,” says Welch. Martha Neal Maurer, Director of Clinical Support Operations says, “Lavallee Brensinger took the time to listen to staff and design to our needs, and the result is a space that works specifically with and for us. We love our new unit!”