The expanded Level III NICU at St. Francis Medical Center is the first phase of construction for the four-story expansion to serve the growing population on the city’s north side, increasing capacity from 30 to 46 beds. The design emphasizes room flexibility to allow maximum medical gas to accommodate all patient acuity levels as well as a family sleeping zone and full restrooms. The NICU opened in August 2018, and the remainder of the expansion is scheduled for completion in early 2019.
Level III NICUs provide the highest level of care for premature or critically ill babies through a clinical team comprised of a wide variety of highly specialized staff. The four-year endeavor to expand and renovate the St. Francis Medical Center Level III NICU involved feedback and participation from all user groups of the department as well as NICU “graduate” families.
St. Francis Medical Center was previously operating under the Family Centered Care model, but after the research done with the design team – including immersion in the current unit, site visits, case study analysis, joint NICU conference attendance to understand the latest trends and outcomes of care, and Lean 3P events – the Family Integrated Care model was adopted with the primary goal of decreasing the average length of stay by fully involving the parents in the day-to-day care of their infants. The Family Integrated Care model promotes full family participation in the NICU. Parents are an integral part of the team and participate in decision-making and care through the lengthy weeks of development for the infant. Traditional NICU design, however, does not provide the privacy and space for parents to participate in this way. The design team’s challenge was to support this new model of care for the hospital in the design of the renovation and expansion.
To encourage and facilitate parental involvement, the single-family room became the focus for the new NICU. The rooms feature advanced room lighting and tunable light to support infants’ circadian rhythm, refrigerator drawers for breast milk, a family sleeping zone with privacy curtain, and a full private restroom. The NICU also features two state-of-the-art couplet care rooms where mothers and babies are kept together in the same room and cared for by the same healthcare team. The SFMC NICU is the only one in Colorado, and one of the few in the nation, with couplet care rooms. Increased space was also designed to care for multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) to be cared for in the same room.
Having a premature infant is extremely stressful for a family, and the design team took care to incorporate several special areas for families to decompress and to connect with others including a redesigned reception area, a Wellness Garden, a NICU Family Lounge, and an outdoor patio and Sky Lobby.
The parti for the NICU is the canopy of the forest, reflective of hospital’s Rocky Mountain setting. Large sweeps on the ceiling and floor plane mimic the light and shadow of a parting sky. Patterning on the NICU doors expresses the tangle of branches and helps diminish the expansive corridor. Natural light is carried through the unit but diffused similar to the light carried through the tree tops. Sparkle lights mimic the night sky and create interest similar to mobiles in an infant’s room.