St. Alexius Medical Center decided to reactivate a closed nursing unit and begin planning for future renovations of all nursing units within the existing hospital. This initiative gave us the opportunity to look at current nursing and technology needs and incorporate them into a new, future nurses’ station model.

The first part of the process involved evaluating the existing nurses’ stations, completely open in the center of a round inpatient floor and surrounded by rooms grouped in twos with recessed entrances. Lighting on the units was substandard, with an extremely bright central nurses’ station and dark, dreary corridors. Noise was also a problem. Ceilings in this central area were all gypsum board with no sound-absorbing materials.

The new plan separates the nurses’ station into three distinct zones. The first zone is for the unit clerk, oriented toward and visible from the main elevator bank. A solid wall behind this area can be used for signage and/or artwork, to provide visual cues for patients and visitors.

On either side of the unit clerk zone, work areas for nurses comprise the second zone. A wall running down the center gives some visual and sound privacy and houses Pyxis® units, additional work counters, storage, crash carts, or other items as required by the specific needs of the unit. The third zone is reserved for physician charting or telemetry.

Finishes incorporate warm cherry wood with darker accents, task and ambient light sources, acoustic tile for sound absorption, and solid-surface counters. The design concept combines the warm, sophisticated qualities of a hospitality atmosphere with the current homelike aesthetic of the hospital. Fluorescent down-lights and under-counter task lights provide overall ambient lighting. Accent lighting at the base of the nurses’ station and on the outside of the new soffit provides a warm glow that makes the nurses’ station a sophisticated focal point of the unit.

The pediatric version adds nautical motifs that suggest a ship with portholes, waves, and murals. Accent light fixtures are outfitted with custom glass globes that suggest the sky. To continue the theme, carpeted areas have colorful marine cutouts in a variety of scales, adding interest to the space and helping to direct people to the nurses’ station and the adjacent play area.

At the vestibule entries to the patient rooms, wood panels with sconces add interest and lighting. At the central core across from the nurses’ station, additional storage has been added, finished in the same wood tones. This adds warmth and gives staff easy access to storage or an alternate place to chart. Flooring materials are a combination of carpeting and simulated-wood vinyl flooring.

Project category: Remodel/Renovation (completed April 2004)

Chief administrator: Edward Goldberg, President, (847) 843-2000

Firm: Proteus Group, (312) 337-7800

Design team: Mark Maturo, Project Manager; Greg Marckel, AIA, Project Architect; Alan W. Mack, Principal, Interiors; Kerri Snook, Interior Designer; Brian Wattleworth, PE, Principal, Electrical Engineering

Photography: ©2004 Anthony May; “Before” photo, Proteus Group

Total building area (sq. ft.): 11,600

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $178

Total cost (excluding land): $2,068,000