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New-look ICU high tech, high touch
Northside unveils more space, comforts
Sharon Freeman, ICU manager, gives a tour of the new unit at Northside Hospital-Forsyth on Tuesday. The project is part of an ongoing expansion of the local campus. - photo by Autumn McBride

Northside Hospital-Forsyth recently opened a larger and more patient-focused intensive care unit.

The project is part of an ongoing $51 million expansion that will add three new floors to the hospital’s north tower and a three-story wing to the women’s center.

The total expansion includes 110,600 square feet of new construction and 10,000 square feet of renovations.

It’s anticipated to bring about 140 new full-time equivalent employees to the hospital.

Sharon Freeman, ICU manager, said the new unit offers more patient rooms and space for employees to work.

“This has afforded us the ability to continue to meet the needs of our patients, but in a much more nurse- and healthcare worker-friendly area,” Freeman said.

The expanded ICU, located on the fourth floor, allowed for the addition of four patient rooms, bumping the total from 20 to 24 beds.

Not only are there more rooms, but they are more spacious than those in the old ICU, which was on the second floor.

Unlike the former rooms, each new one provides an area for patients’ family members.

“With the old rooms, we were good to have one old recliner for visitors,” Freeman said.

The new rooms, however, offer a recliner, as well as bench seating that can be used as a bed. Each also has a table, lockable cabinet and small TV separate from the patient’s.

“The families really have their own area in the patient rooms, and one family member can even spend the night now,” Freeman said.

Lynn Jackson, Northside-Forsyth administrator, said leaders wanted to design a unit that incorporated advanced technology with high levels of care.

“We wanted something that was very high tech, but also high touch,” she said. “Our goal was to have our team come together on behalf of the patients and their families.”

Jackson said many traditional ICUs allow limited family time with patients, but Northside leaders wanted to provide greater access.

“That’s a very new concept, but it’s a trademark of Northside to be very innovative and progressive,” Jackson said.

“We believe it brings transparency to those critical processes these patients go through. Now their families can be right there with them.”

Freeman said the rooms also feature more modern care-giving tools for patients.

“We’re ecstatic about the state-of-the-art technology we now have in all the rooms,” Freeman said.

That technology includes “true crisis care” beds, which use air to inflate or deflate and help nurses rotate patients. They play music and can be moved anywhere in the room.

Rooms also feature medical “boons,” which contain oxygen and electrical hook-ups typically found on wall-mounted headboards. The boons can be placed as needed.

In addition, every room has a lift, which can be used to move patients.

“Our nurses really appreciate that,” Freeman said. “Now they don’t have to pull and tug on patients, which can be really bad for the nurses’ backs.”

Other new features of the unit are two nurses’ stations and several crash cart storage areas.

There are also two rooms for staff members such as case managers and therapists to work.

Other features include expanded break and locker rooms for staff, an X-ray area and blood gas lab.

Freeman said the lab was especially needed. Many ICU patients require oxygen and blood gas levels are used to determine how much.

In the past, such levels had to be measured in other areas of the hospital.

Dr. Frank DeMarco, medical director of the ICU, said the new unit was “like an early Christmas present.”

“The hospital did a wonderful job of allowing us to have input,” he said. “It’s now much easier for us to give excellent care.”

DeMarco said the new unit will also have some additional staff, though he didn’t have specific numbers.

“We’re still in the process of hiring new nurses,” he said. “That’s something that will probably go on for a while.”

Overall, DeMarco said everyone seems pleased with the new setup.

“Patients and their families have all been very positive,” he said. “They all love the new facility.

“When you have patients who are so sick, it’s nice to have a wonderful unit for them and their families.”

Added Jackson: “We’re so proud of where we’ve come from and what we’re now able to offer our ICU patients and their families.”