To understand the significance of Feb. 25, 2017—the day patients began to move into a new children’s hospital at the University of Iowa—realize that the last time a hospital opened on campus was in 1928, when General Hospital first welcomed patients. Nearly nine decades later, there was certainly reason for applause when this announcement came just before the first patient was moved in at 8:30 a.m.: “We are a go. Let’s open our University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.” Scott Turner, children’s hospital executive director, and Joe Czerniak (at right in photo), senior project manager, discussed that historic day with Medicine Iowa.
MI: Who was the first patient to move in?
ST: Our very first patient was Will Kohn, a 6-year-old from Bettendorf, Iowa, who was born with a heart defect. He’s waiting for a heart transplant in our Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.
MI: How many patients were moved?
ST: Fifty-two pediatric patients and their families were moved safely to three levels: the UI Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer Center; Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. We also moved into four additional levels where we have imaging, dialysis and infusion, our pharmacy, and our main lobby, where families and visitors can get food or find something to entertain siblings of our patients.
MI: Where were you during the move?
ST: I stayed in the command center in our main hospital. The structure for managing a big event—which is what the incident command center is intended to do—is something that has been tried and tested in real-life situations and in drills. We were able to modify the existing structure to meet some of the unique needs with the move. This included having a section of our command structure focused on the patient and family experience. This section, like all sections, did a fantastic job in their planning and execution. For example, they recognized that we should move the family’s belongings prior to their child getting transferred, and they also organized an activity center where patients’ siblings could remain occupied during the move. The core way you structure and lead teams to be able to respond to needs is common, whether we are moving into a new hospital or responding to a natural disaster in our community.
MI: How was the command center in one building able to monitor the activity in another building?
JC: We used a real-time locating system to track the movement of patients. As staff began their moves, they pressed the RTLS button on their name badge. We were able to track on our monitors exactly where they were as they were communicating with the command center, between the move teams, and to the section chiefs, all the way into the patient room.
MI: How were you able to protect the privacy of patients and families yet still share news of the move immediately through hospital social media channels?
JC: Working with our marketing and communications team in the days before the move, we identified patients and families who gave consent to be photographed and filmed. When we moved these patients, they had a blue blanket bearing the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital logo on their bed or carried by a family member. We put blue bows on the isolettes of babies. Marketing and communications accompanied every patient team and shared news as it happened.
MI: Not every patient was moved in on Feb. 25. Why not?
ST: The safety and comfort of our patients, their families, and our employees is our top priority. We decided to move in phases to allow time to complete medical device integration such as vital sign monitors with Epic, our electronic health record system, and to ensure the remaining areas were ready for patients and their families. On March 25, we moved another 33 patients to Levels 9 and 10, completing our inpatient move.
MI: Do you have any advice for another hospital that plans a similar move?
ST: You can’t communicate enough. We’ve been working toward the move since spring of 2015, scheduling weekly meetings and then multiple mock drills toward the end, because you don’t want to have discoverable moments while you’re trying to move patients. Quality and safety is at the forefront of everybody’s thinking. At a place like ours, where you have the specialized knowledge of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and more—all the way to engineering and information technology— if somebody has questions to ask, you will be better served if you’ve created a venue for them to ask the question so you can have a more perfect plan.