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New Critical Care Tower opens

By Leslie Hast
January 2010

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The new Critical Care Tower, a 329,000-square-foot addition to Vanderbilt University Hospital that opened in November, combines the human touch with technology to care for Vanderbilt’s most vulnerable patients.

“The Critical Care Tower is a place where some of our patients who are most in need can receive great care in one of the best facilities in the country. It is also a symbol of our commitment to surrounding those patients with both the latest in technology and with family-focused care – personalized medicine at its best,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The Critical Care Tower is located alongside the north and south towers of Vanderbilt University Hospital. The 11-story addition houses 12 new operating rooms and 102 patient beds in the medical, surgical and neurological intensive care units.

The $169 million expansion meets an ever-increasing demand for inpatient bed and surgical services.

“The Critical Care Tower project will not only allow us to address our capacity needs, but will also provide facilities that will support our implementation of cutting edge technologies,” said Larry Goldberg, chief executive officer of VUH. “We have experienced significant growth over the past decade, which few hospitals have been able to achieve throughout the country. The new Critical Care Tower will allow us to serve more of the community and continue to deliver the quality care which we provide at Vanderbilt.”

Patient rooms, which average 320 square feet, were designed in an innovative three-zone layout. The staff zone gives the care team plenty of room to work around the bedside, and there is a computer in every room for documentation.

The patient zone includes an ICU Smart Bed with enhanced functions and safety features. The head wall has a variety of hook-ups, including dialysis in every room. There is also a blood gas lab and radiology room on every unit for faster test results.

The family zone reflects an increasing emphasis on patient- and family-centered care with a dedicated space for family to stay at the bedside. All rooms are private and include a full bath and sleeper sofa or recliner. Each unit also includes an active waiting area with a TV and computer and a quiet waiting area with comfortable recliners.

There are six isolation rooms on each unit, and three rooms have bariatric lifts. The focal point of the tower is a central atrium with skylights bringing in natural sunlight. It can be accessed from the sixth floor and has comfortable seating, artwork, a meditation garden and live trees. Interior finishes mimic colors and textures found in nature. Walls are painted in soothing blue and green tones with wood and stone accents.

The new operating rooms are large enough to accommodate the latest technology, including two that were specially equipped with single plane and biplane imaging systems. All ORs have the latest telemedicine capabilities. They are interchangeable and available for any service, and shelving is standardized so restocking is more efficient and specialty items can be brought in as needed.

To support the expanded surgical services, a new blood bank was constructed on the fourth floor of The Vanderbilt Clinic. It consolidates the adult and pediatric service to increase efficiency.

The Critical Care Tower meets immediate needs but was also designed with the future in mind.

“A big challenge is to make sure we are not only providing what is needed today but what we might need in 10 years,” said architect Jim Tenpenny. “We may not know of all the new stuff that will be available in 10 years, but I know it’s going to need more power, more data and more cooling. We have to provide the backbone to support it even though we don’t know what it will be.”

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