Apply evidence-based design principles to Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture, and the result is the new 56,000-square-foot patient wing and surgery addition at Community Hospital in McCook, Nebraska.
Serving a modest population of 30,000 in eight surrounding southern Nebraskan and northern Kansas counties, the design is an unexpected yet delightful surprise in this rural prairie community.
The design, by HDR Architecture, features 19-foot ceilings, clerestory windows, fireplaces, stone and wood exteriors and interiors, an earthy color palette, and a scenic healing garden featuring butterflies, native plants and birds, a stone patio, fireplace, and fountains. The comprehensive care facility offers inpatient, outpatient, diagnostics, treatment, emergency, rehabilitation, clinic, and surgical services.
To learn more about this noteworthy project, contributing editor Barbara Horwitz-Bennett spoke with Community Hospital McCook President and CEO James P. Ulrich Jr., and HDR designers Cyndi McCullough, RN, MSN, EDAC, senior healthcare consultant; Robert Hailey, AIA, LEED GA, project manager and senior project architect; Kevin Ruff, project designer; and Amy Dishman, LEED AP ID+C, interior designer.
Out with the old, in with the new
James P. Ulrich Jr.: In our old facility, the nurses’ stations were in the middle surrounded by patient rooms—which we lovingly referred to as the “pods.” From a nursing standpoint, it was nice. However, any kind of noise would bounce off the cone in the ceiling and go straight into the patient rooms. And the rooms were pie-shaped and had shared bathrooms, so access to the bathrooms wasn’t very good.
With our new patient wing, we wanted to have rooms that were more in line with today’s way of delivering care. This included a caregiver zone, a family zone—which was largely absent in the former hospital—and, obviously, a patient zone, which required more space than our previous rooms. We also decided to set up the support services to be much closer and accessible.
The pods were built back in 1974 and were beginning to require pretty heavy maintenance. We were having to consider a pretty big overhaul, so we decided to go with new construction to take advantage of the latest in design.
Ultimately, I think we did a very good job of providing surgery care for both inpatients and outpatients in an inpatient surgery unit. Today, at least 75% of surgeries are outpatient, whereas when the hospital was built, there were only inpatient surgeries, so the original space wasn’t designed with privacy in mind.
Enjoy your stay
Ulrich: The 19-foot ceilings, with natural light cascading in from the ribbon of windows just below, are an impressive feature that runs the length of the patient wing. Often, hospitals receive the usual complaints of the environment being stuffy and institutionalized; that’s not the case here. Patients may not like the fact that, in some cases (for health reasons), they can’t have salt on their meals. That we can’t do anything about, but the environment we can.
Amy Dishman, LEED AP ID+C: To create a hospitality feel, we chose a simple palette of colors and used carpeting in the hallways, fireplaces, and wood and stone accents. Since we can’t install water features in the state of Nebraska because of infection control, we’re doing more fireplaces.
Carpeting is often a hard sell for hospitals in terms of anticipated maintenance, but it makes a big difference with acoustics and indoor air quality. It can also reduce falling risks and reinforces the hospitality look, as opposed to the typical [vinyl composition tile] floor, which can make the space look sterile and institutional. Because we went with carpet tiles, they’re easily replaceable. It’s a seamless transition if you need to pop in a new carpet square.
In addition, the stone walls blur the lines between the exterior and the interior, and really help make that connection to the natural environment and the common vernacular of the area.