The new Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has that new hospital look and feel. Everything in the space is new, from the lightbulbs to the intercoms, and smells like it just came out of the box.
The Jiji NICU is almost ready to welcome its first tiny patients, but with the lengthy checklist of pre-opening touchups, the nurses haven’t been allowed much time to see their new workspace. The agenda for today: familiarizing the nursing team with the new unit. Across a 48-hour span, every two hours, each of the unit’s 125 nurses will attend an orientation session like this one to get to know the Jiji NICU from the inside.
After a morning huddle in the spacious and bright team room, the nurses continue on for a physical orientation of the rooms. As everyone files into one side of an adjoining twin room, you can only hear the voices in the room itself. Noise absorbing windows, ceilings and floors blanket the unit and offer a respite from the outside Greene Street bustle. With the door closed, it is nearly impossible to hear voices from the hallway.
Each of the 52 rooms is thoughtfully designed, featuring fold-down couches for overnight guests and a designated breastmilk refrigerator. A grey provider zone and a white family zone are demarcated on the floor. These soft boundaries are representative of the team effort that will undoubtedly go into each patient’s care. Knowing that infants at the NICU may not see the outside world for some time, each room is equipped with circadian lighting to acclimate each baby to a standard sleep-wake cycle.
Concern for patient safety is also apparent in the design plans. Situated near each quad of rooms is a nursing station, at which patient vitals will be displayed and carefully monitored. Each nurse has been assigned to one of five neighborhoods, color-coded regions of the NICU that correspond to each of the five wings. Each neighborhood was also assigned a facilitator, a person in charge of monitoring the alarm system and making sure help goes to where it is needed.
The nurses then start training on the escalation alarm system. Colored lights sit above each door and throughout the hallways of each neighborhood. Each alarm has a different protocol. The three flashing orange lights for an urgent call are accompanied by a persistent “ding-dong” and are sent to all neighborhoods, whereas the single white light for a nurse call remains in one neighborhood. By the time the first patients come through the doors, nurses will know how to respond to each of the alarms.
Next up on the agenda: trips to different places in the hospital, including walking the most efficient route to labor and delivery. Floor plans and detailed way-finding maps line the hallway for reference, but everything is different in practice. Little details like time spent going to and from the elevator add up, and if the nurses know the best way to get from place to place, they can provide the most effective and attentive care for babies.
The final activity for this session is a scavenger hunt. To make sure the nurses know where to find things in their units and throughout the NICU as a whole, they divide up into groups and tick off items like the circadian light switches, EKG machines, bathrooms, stairwells and supply closets. As everyone finds their way around the unit and cross items off their lists, the confidence begins to build—within no time these professionals will be in the best shape to take care of the NICU’s most in-need patients. Pretty soon this place will be put to good use.
Watch Dr. Cynthia Bearer, division head of Pediatric Neonatology, give a virtual tour of the Jiji NICU:
The 52-room unit, specially designed by clinical staff, will open September 15th.