The original hospital at UAMS opened 53 years ago with modern amenities for its patients and caregivers.
The same can be said about the gleaming new hospital that takes its place — but “modern amenities” are much different in 2009 than in 1956. Simply calling it “modern” does not account for the bigger, more welcoming, more accommodating, more high-tech, more private and more efficient hospital that has opened as a Gateway to Healing.
From the native Arkansas limestone columns in a bright, airy lobby to the all private adult and neonatal inpatient rooms, hospital administrators and designers focused on elements that created comfort, hope and healing for UAMS patients and their families.
“This is not the hospital of today, it’s the hospital of tomorrow — unlike anything we’ve known,” said Dick Pierson, UAMS vice chancellor for clinical programs and UAMS Medical Center executive director.
The hospital has larger units for treating the tiniest and the most critical patients. It includes more operating rooms, along with a new and larger clinical lab, Radiology Department and Emergency Department.
Still, it’s not just the increase in space but an upgrade in accommodations. A look through the hospital illustrates how an aesthetically pleasing
décor could be combined with the latest in patient care technology.
Patient-Focused Private Rooms When the original hospital opened in the mid-1950s, semi-private rooms were the norm. Rooms were
built for as many as five beds in some units.
Now UAMS patients can expect private rooms that recognize how privacy and pleasant surroundings can boost the healing process. Earthy, natural shades and colors echo Arkansas’ status as The Natural State, while high ceilings make the rooms feel more open.
A sleeper sofa allows families to stay comfortable and close. Rooms also include a 26-inch flat-screen TV.
Patient bathrooms with larger doorways are more accommodating for those in wheelchairs. Bathroom doors can be opened even wider to accommodate a stretcher.
For nurses, the rooms have a sink, locking cabinets and supply carts, putting needed supplies and medications within reach in a safe and more efficient location near the bedside.
“The planning of the new patient rooms took into account the needs of the nursing staff, the needs of the patient and the needs of the family, which allows our nurses to more easily deliver care,” said Mary Helen Forrest, UAMS chief nursing officer.
ER, ICU, NICU Specialized units enjoy more space, technology and elements designed to improve efficiency of care.
Patients in the Emergency Department (ED), often called the emergency room or ER, have private rooms. Previously, ward-style rooms in the old ED had three or four beds.
“Private rooms are a growing trend in emergency care because of privacy rules, safety and patient satisfaction requirements,” said Andre Prudhomme, ED clinical services manager, who noted that the private rooms have removable walls so the unit can expand to serve up to 54 patients in the event of a large-scale emergency.
The ED features a general X-ray room and a computed tomography (CT) scanner, eliminating the need to transport patients for imaging.
The intensive care (ICU) and intermediate care units are larger. Previously, Forrest said, critical patients often had to be kept in the ED or post-surgery unit, while waiting for an ICU bed to open up.
“Those other units are busy areas that do not allow for private rooms, making them relatively noisy and not conducive to patient comfort,” Forrest said. “These additional beds allow more efficient patient placement and more satisfying care in a private room environment.”
The smallest patients, those in the neonatal intensive care unit, have a new space that incorporates some of the latest thinking and technology for their care. Private rooms will allow caregivers to better control climate, keep lights low and minimize noise.
New Clinical Lab, Radiology The lab where diagnostic tests are conducted also moved to a larger location, nearly doubling in size. Open around the clock, there are as many as 100 people working in the clinical lab at any time.
The organization that inspects clinical labs cited UAMS in the past for its space constraints, said Sue Scott, clinical laboratory director.
“We have been limited in the new testing that we could bring into the lab because of the lack of space for the equipment necessary to do that testing,” Scott said.
he new space accommodates new equipment as well, including upgrades to tools for analysis of blood samples and other specimens. Scott said the lab’s closer proximity to the operating rooms and the new ED allows quicker responses on lab tests.
Marvin Stricklin, the Radiology Department administrator, noted that when the original hospital was built, there were no MRI or CT scanners and many other imaging procedures did not exist.
“Our old space was never designed for MRIs or CTs,” Stricklin said. “Space has been a critical need as we’ve added new technology over the years.”
As in the case of the lab, location of the new radiology section is important, he said. Interventional radiology, where more invasive imaging tools are used, is closer to the operating rooms where patients often need those procedures.
Other imaging tools have been moved to the units where they are needed. The ED has its own CT scanner and the Psychiatric Research Institute has an MRI that is used for clinical programs and also research.
Change Starts at the Front Door Visitors to the new hospital notice the change in atmosphere when they pull through the circular driveway to the glass front doors or ride the elevator from the parking deck to the new lobby. Gone is the walk from the parking deck, down the long, narrow hallway in the old hospital. As Pierson noted, the hospital now has a formal and prominent entrance.
The limestone columns, terrazzo floors, large windows, chandeliers and a two-story-high ceiling give the new Josephine Raye and Doyle W. Rogers Lobby a welcoming and spacious feeling with an emphasis on natural materials.
Adding to the lobby’s atmosphere is another gift, a Steinway grand piano made possible by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust. The instrument can be used for special events or provide soothing preprogrammed background music.
Patient admissions is mere steps from the front entrance. The new lobby is integrated into the lobby of the hospital’s existing Ward Tower, which has now been reworked to accommodate patient discharge services. Ward Tower, opened in the 1990s, pivots off the new hospital building with the circle drive in front of both lobbies, making for convenient patient drop-offs and pickups.
Also nearby will be the relocated UAMS Gift Shop, which will enjoy a location close to the new Lobby Café, visitor elevators and Tenenbaum Foundation Patient and Family Resource Center as well as on the concourse leading to the UAMS Outpatient Center. The larger gift shop will carry a wider selection and focus on items that help patients and visitors while they are at the hospital.
“From top to bottom, this new hospital is a milestone in the evolution of UAMS and our ability to serve our patients and the medical needs of Arkansas,” Pierson said.