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Clinical consultants build on nursing experience for St. Michael’s 3.0

Toronto, May 14, 2015

By Kate Manicom

A rendering of a patient room in the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower’s MSICU
A rendering of a patient room in the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower’s MSICU. All rooms will be private and equipped with monitors and lights on ceiling-mounted articulating arms, providing 360-degree access to patient beds. (Rendering by NORR)

When Jessica Cunnington worked as a registered nurse in the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit in the 1970s, patient beds were pushed up against one wall and surrounded by monitors and other equipment, making it difficult to move around the bed and, in particular, to reach a patient’s head.

Cunnington now works for the hospital’s Planning and Development Department, co-ordinating the design of inpatient units in the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower.

All rooms in the tower’s new MSICU will have 360-degree access to patient beds for caregivers. Monitors and lights will be on ceiling-mounted articulating arms. From her own health-care experience, she knows this will be crucial to help nurses do their jobs.

Cunnington and Cathy Bidwell are registered nurses who now work as clinical consultants with Planning and Development. Both have spent most of their careers at St. Michael’s in nursing and clinical leader/manager roles in operating rooms, obstetrics, intensive care units, therapeutic endoscopy and the Medical Device Reprocessing Department. They have built strong relationships with physicians, health disciplines staff and other nurses.

As clinical consultants, Cunnington and Bidwell wear various hats. First, they are project managers, overseeing the timeline, budget and scope of building projects. Second, they are advisers, using their clinical expertise to help inform design decisions such as the layout of an operating room or flow of a unit. Third, they are communicators, translating the requests of the hospital’s stakeholders to the architectural and building teams who draw and execute the plans.

In the plans for 3.0, Cunnington and Bidwell have shortened distances between patient rooms and support rooms – where clean linens are stored, for example – where possible. Based on feedback from nurses and their own experiences, they know that this easily overlooked part of planning can help to decrease nurses’ fatigue and increase time at the bedside.

  "Privacy, natural light, better infection control and family-centred care are all part of the designs."

“Trust is a crucial part of our work,” said Cunnington. “The hospital’s end users of a building project know we understand what they need to do their jobs and trust that they will see this in the final design plans."

Bidwell, who is overseeing the renovations to the Emergency Department, said she was eager to see how transforming patient flow through the ED will improve patient care.

“In the Slaight Family Emergency Department, patients will be triaged and directed to the appropriate area for care depending on whether they are mobile and can walk on their own, or if they need to be transported by a stretcher,” she said. “By streamlining care in this way, we’ll make sure we have the right space for the right patient at the right time.”

Cunnington said she looked forward to seeing all single rooms in the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower, with dedicated space in each room for the patient, his or her family and for staff.

"Privacy, natural light, better infection control and family-centred care are all part of the designs,” she said. “There is a lot to look forward to.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.