Project category: New construction (completed April 2005)

Chief administrator: Richard Sturgeon, MD, Interim President, (612) 863-8279

Firm: Ellerbe Becket, (612) 376-2000

Design team: Jon Buggy, Principal-in-Charge; John Albers, Project Manager; Mike Spence, Project Architect; Terri Zborowsky, Medical Planner; Karen Mensing, Interior Designer

Photography: George Heinrich

Total building area (sq. ft.): 89,700

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $295

Total construction cost (excluding land): $26,500,000

The soothing sounds of falling water and the warmth of a fireplace seem more like characteristics of a wilderness retreat than an urban medical center, but that's precisely what patients find at Abbott Northwestern Hospital's Neuroscience/Orthopedic/Spine Patient Care Center in Minneapolis.

The 128-bed nursing unit—with on-site physical therapy support space and a dedicated inpatient epilepsy diagnosis and treatment area—is turning heads in the medical community. A two-story atrium with water feature greets patients and visitors upon arrival. Patient rooms have special accommodations for caregivers, patients, and families. Shared spaces are endearing and open, and the design reinforces the calm, intimate environment for patients, staff, and visitors.

During planning, user-intensive meetings brought together groups of nurses for the first time to discuss work-flow and process issues and how these concepts affected design needs. Meetings also included discussions between Information Technology, Dietary, Infection Control, Materials Management, and Environmental Services departments. Technology was a particularly important issue, as the nurses were moving toward automated medical records and decentralized, or bedside, nursing. Wireless communication systems were integrated, as well.

Special zones were created for each user group—patients, caregivers, and families—and important tasks were identified and integrated into the design. Other unique spaces include a staff respite room, a physical therapy room, and a special section for assessment of daily living, complete with a practice kitchen.

The project began in the summer 2003 and was completed on time and under budget in April of 2005.