When Johns Hopkins unveiled its $1.1 billion addition a couple weeks ago, most of the focus was on the new buildings — their state-of-the-art equipment, colorful facades, and 1.6 million square feet of space. But opening a hospital is a very different undertaking than cutting the ribbon in front of a new mall. A hospital is full of patients — sometimes very sick ones — and they each have to be moved from the old structures to the new one. This turns out to be precisely the opposite of a simple task, and, as with everything in this new hospital, extreme care was taken to make sure the patient move happened in the best possible way. That meant, according to Robin Hunt, “running two hospitals simultaneously” for a couple days. Like we said: not a simple task.
Hunt organized, managed, and led the move of 271 patients over two days, a process that took three-plus years to plan. She consulted with representatives from each of the hospital’s departments, ran simulations, and figured out how to deal with critically ill patients. They built a precise schedule, laying out the timing for each aspect of the movement. Specially designated “emergency pull-off zones” were created along the routes, in case a patient being transported required immediate medical attention. The most critically ill patients were escorted by as many as five staff members, sometimes including a physician, nurse, respiratory therapist, and critical care transport staff. Right before the big day, Hunt and her team gathered a group of volunteers and students who acted as mock patients in a last-minute dress rehearsal. Each stand-in patient came complete with a patient profile and medical equipment, so the command center could get a sense of how the entire process would work. “The mock move definitely served its purpose,” Hunt says. The hospital decided to beef up communication between the command center and its transport team, providing radios so they could be in constant contact with anyone moving a patient. “We also learned that the building is massive,” Hunt said, and so transport teams got extra training so they’d always know for sure exactly where they were.
While the hospital’s staff prepared anxiously, many patients found the whole process more exciting than anything else. The hospital provided each patient with gifts — a homemade blanket, books, bags and suitcases — and kept them informed about the process. “The patients were very excited to be involved in this part of history,” Hunt says. The pediatric patients participated in scavenger hunts along the way to their new hospital rooms, and some patients even got to cut the ribbon to officially open new wings of the hospital. To Hunt’s relief, none of the emergency pull-offs were necessary. “It involved taking something we do on a daily basis and expanding the magnitude and complexity of it,” Hunt says. “This really is one of the best examples of teamwork.”
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