Employee Teams Roll Up Their Sleeves To Design Monroe Clinic's Northwest Addition

When it came time to design a facility that would support the best care and patient/family experience now and in the future, Monroe Clinic turned to their most valuable resource—its employees.

Two years before the December 2009 groundbreaking, Monroe Clinic leadership asked employees to volunteer for “champion” and “design” teams to help guide the development of the Northwest Addition. The response was overwhelming. More than 60 employees volunteered to be on the champion teams, and approximately 200 more were engaged as part of the design teams. All told, roughly 20 percent of Monroe Clinic’s workforce has been involved.

“We gave people the opportunity to decide which team they wanted to sign up for,” Borowski said. “The teams were larger than we planned, and everyone who volunteered was included. It was a new experience for all of us. Very few people had been involved in the hospital construction process, and to be involved from the very beginning, at the conceptual level, was certainly unique. I think it really set the stage for future success.”

From 2007 to 2008, six champion teams visited hospitals and clinics, researched best practices from healthcare and other industries, and did a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. Project architect, Kahler Slater, worked closely with the teams throughout the process. In March 2008, the teams shared their findings at workshops with all employees. Then Kahler Slater and the employee design teams folded the champion teams’ recommendations into plans for the new space.


More than a building project

The six champion teams were: unit configuration, operational efficiency, sustainability/green/LEED, evidence-based design/healing environment, technology and innovation advantage. Each team included a wide range of employees, from medical providers to operational employees who don’t work directly with patients. The wide range of viewpoints and experience was invaluable.

“It was really a joint effort,” said Gina Lanz, RN, cardiac rehab, employee health and occupational health services supervisor. “With more people involved, you’re less likely to miss something, and it really makes everyone feel like they have a say. I think it adds excitement when you’re more involved and makes the transition to the new building easier.”

While envisioning a state-of-the-art physical space was important, it wasn’t the only assignment. Monroe Clinic asked the teams to look at how care and services are delivered, both in its current space and at other facilities. Through their research, the teams discovered new approaches and best practices that could be implemented well before the Northwest Addition opens—some of which have occurred, allowing for a more seamless transition to the new building.

“We really looked at workflow, particularly how much nurses walk getting supplies and other activities that take time away from interacting with patients,” said Lea Beach, environmental services supervisor. “One of our success stories was a patient transport employee who walked 26 miles a week moving empty carts because he had no convenient place to store them. Now he has storage. But before, the communication wasn’t there. Now there’s a process in place.”


Building excitement and sense of ownership

More than 4,000 hours went into the planning of the Northwest Addition. The extent and depth of employee involvement is unusual, according to project supervisor Chuck Bernhagen, who has led healthcare construction projects for several systems in the Midwest. “There was a concerted effort to get the full picture and do things right on a scale I haven’t seen before,” he said.

Shawn Webb, decision support specialist, was a member of the green team. After getting a crash course in environmental sustainability, Webb said she’s more aware of how she can make a difference both personally and professionally. She’s excited that her team helped make the case for Monroe Clinic’s decision to become one of the first hospitals to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

“We didn’t look at it as Monroe Clinic in comparison to others, but where we want to be and how we want to do it,” she said. “As the building is completed, you can look at it and say, ‘that’s the part my team said we needed to do.’ It’s your building, too.”


A different kind of facility

The result of all this teamwork is a facility that supports patients, families and employees, according to team member Melissa Sargent, gastroenterology, urology and women’s health supervisor. “It’s a very family-oriented experience that’s very comforting and just beautiful and peaceful, even for staff to de-stress.”

While she was participating in the evidence-based design team, Mary Austin, an emergency medical services coordinator, had an experience that brought the issue home.

“My husband fractured his leg and spent a week at the hospital,” she said. “I really watched how the space impacted him and me, too. With all of us coming together, I think it’s a much more patient-focused facility. It’s not just a medically up-to-date facility. We’ve really worked to create a whole process that supports healing.”

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