St. John’s Children’s Hospital Opens Expanded, Family Centered NICU

Hospital Sisters Health System recently celebrated the grand opening of its expanded, family centered neonatal intensive care unit at HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois. The project team included architect Kahler Slater and general contractor O’Shea Construction.

With the nationwide trend of increasing premature births, HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital needed to make drastic changes to its existing 45-bed, 15,000-square-foot Level III NICU. At the outset, project leaders knew they wanted to build upon the latest Evidence-Based Design learnings from other best-in-class facilities. The design team and clinicians visited multiple benchmark facilities for NICU care in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. They were able to collaborate with staff and leadership to get a sense for lessons learned and best practices to bring forward.

Led by Dr. Beau Batton, chief neonatologist at HSHS St. John’s, the clinical design team along with Kahler Slater and women and children’s healthcare experts, Smith Hager Bajo, targeted multiple patient outcomes that could be improved with the new environment, including average length of stay and rate of readmission, among others. The team will be gathering post-occupancy data to determine the success of the desired outcomes.

Phase I of the expanded NICU is more than double the original size at 36,500 square feet, with a total of 56 beds. Innovative features of the expanded program include:

  • Single-family rooms where parents can stay overnight with their infant
  • Dedicated rooms for NICU twins and their families to stay together
  • A tiny baby sub-unit dedicated to the highly specialized needs of the smallest patients
  • A milk lab where milk technicians can fortify mothers’ breastmilk with additional nutrients
  • A dedicated family respite lounge and overnight sleep suites will be available when phase II opens later this year

With the new units up and running, St. John’s will have the unique offering of couplet care. This care strategy was first introduced in Sweden at the Karolinska Institute in 2007 and there are  10 states in the nation offering this program. It allows mom and their NICU baby to stay in the same room, establishing the essential parent-child bond from the outset. Positive outcomes as a result of couplet care have proven to be decreases in length-of-stay and infant morbidity. Couplet care also supports earlier bonding of NICU infant and mother due to earlier skin-to-skin contact and increased breastfeeding success.

As a family centered environment, care was taken to ensure the design aesthetic of the space was appealing to the entire family. Thoughtful attention was given to light-filled care spaces and corridors. The clean and bright interior was then accented with simple shapes, pops of bold color and botanical graphics. These elements support wayfinding and help emphasize the smaller “neighborhoods” throughout the floor. The overall palette maintains a consistent aesthetic with the standards established with the larger HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital, as well as the new HSHS St. John’s Women’s and Children’s Clinic across the street.

Photo courtesy of Peter McCullough.

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Posted April 14, 2021

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