When the state-of-the-art Lundquist Tower opens to the public on Sunday, November 16, everything from the operating rooms to the 256 private patient rooms to the gift shop must be 100% ready to go. Patient-care staff will have been trained on new systems, new equipment and an optimized workflow to ensure every single patient has the same seamless experience of high-quality care they’d have in any other part of Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Every patient in the Medical/Surgical, Progressive Care and Intensive Care units at the hospital will be moved that day to a private room in the Tower by a team that includes a physician, nurse and respiratory therapist.
And how does that ideal patient experience happen from day one in a new hospital? With a lot of time, preparation, collaboration and a few very high-tech “dress rehearsals.” In fact, team leaders among Torrance Memorial’s staff will have gone through so-called “Day in the Life” simulations of daily hospital operations in the new, 390,000-square-foot Lundquist Tower well before patients and staff move in, says Lisa Refuerzo, RN, MSN, ACNS-BC, director of clinical education at Torrance Memorial.
“The goals of the Day in the Life drills are to prepare the facility and staff; test systems to make sure everything works as expected; validate the new workflow and equipment; familiarize staff with everything that’s new to them; and find and resolve any issues that arise,” says Refuerzo.
That’s a tall order, which is why the hospital will hold four separate Day in the Life drills—in August, September, October and November—giving leadership and staff ample opportunity to understand how the new tower will function and address any concerns that come up, long before the first patient crosses the threshold.
“Evaluating floor plans and workflow processes on paper is very different from living life in a new building,” says Connie Senner, director of construction at Torrance Memorial. “The Day in the Life drills will help assure us that patient care is seamless in the new spaces. We have written scenarios that allow us to practice everything from transporting patients from one location to another to using equipment like the nurse call system and ceiling-integrated patient lifts and testing the emergency response for cardiac arrest and fire.”
The same pre-opening testing will be done for surgery, ultrasounds and CT scans, and for cardiac catheterization procedures, she adds, “ensuring that everything has its proper fit in the room and that everything works as it should.”
Preparation for the transition to the new building started first with considering all the scenarios—routine and not-so-routine—that physicians, nurses, technicians and support staff deal with on a daily basis, and the many steps they take to, say, bathe a patient, deliver meds, draw blood, prep for surgery and transition someone into the ICU—to name just a few patient-care tasks that happen dozens of times a day at Torrance Memorial. Some departments also needed to be relocated to the new building.
“The patient-care areas that will need to be moved into the new tower are the ICU, Burn ICU, Medical/Surgical Unit and Progressive Care Unit,” explains Senner. “We expect a total of about 150 patients will be occupying those units on move day.”
In addition, the hospital’s inpatient pharmacy, admitting and pre-testing services will relocate as well. “We also have some imaging and radiological services, a kitchen, cafe, gift shop, central services and sterile processing that established new services in the building,” Senner adds. “All of these require advance setup.”
With so many complex tasks to prepare for, it probably comes as no surprise to hear that this transition was 18 months in the planning, or that 240 people will be on hand for moving day. “Thinking about all of the tasks that needed to take place to accomplish a successful transition was overwhelming,” notes Senner. “We brought on a firm, HTS, that has a lot of experience transitioning hospitals. With their help, we broke down what needed to be accomplished into manageable phases.”
In collaboration with HTS and her colleagues, Refuerzo worked to take an interdisciplinary approach to training and orienting staff to the forthcoming changes so they would know what to expect and how to work safely and effectively from the get-go. Preparation for the staff started in January 2014 by identifying leaders from every department, explains Refuerzo.
From there the departments drafted Day in the Life scenarios that would be played out during the actual drill days, such as how meals would be delivered to patients and how security would be monitored. “Planning for the drills opened up our eyes to how well we were doing already and what else we needed to do in order to be successful,” Refuerzo says. “The simulations also gave employees a chance to work in their new work space.”
As with any highly complex transition with hundreds of collaborators and very high stakes, it was good communication that has made it all possible.
“Planning and preparing is the most difficult, but if you plan every detail and collaborate and communicate with your peers, consultants and across departments, it will make a whole world of a difference,” stresses Refuerzo. “Every department has their uniqueness and their own needs, but they are all dependent on one another. The drills brought this to light, and there was a great team effort.”
And while it has been a year-and-a-half of planning for this all-important transition in mid-November, Connie Senner says success wouldn’t have been possible without the care that went into creating the many features—seen and unseen—in the Lundquist Tower itself.
“The most complex component [of this transition] has been the years of design and planning that have been put into assuring that, while aesthetically beautiful and well-equipped, the building is also functional so that caregivers can provide outstanding care to the community,” she says. “We love our new building, but without those that occupy it and bring it to life, it is just a building.”