When Beth Tenda brings one of her children to Akron Children’s new ER, she’ll know every nook and cranny of the space down to the most obscure detail.
That’s because Beth helped design the hospital’s $200 million Kay Jewelers Pavilion as part of the lean project delivery process.
The process began 2 years ago when doctors, nurses, and other members of the care team met and brainstormed about the ideal ER and trauma bay, neonatal intensive care unit and outpatient surgery center.
Beth and several other parents served as the voice of patient families in the process.
They collected and studied data, looked at pictures of other children’s hospitals, worked with architects and engineers, and built and tested simulated space using cardboard walls.
The goals were to build the best space for patient care, improve efficiency, minimize mistakes and keep the construction on time and under budget.
“Wow, this is just as we had planned it,” said Beth, who was on a tour of the building several months before it opened to the public. “The door spaces, the room spaces are perfectly as I envisioned.”
Adopting children with special needs
After raising 2 sons, Beth still felt that pull to parent and adopted 3 children with special needs. Born prematurely, they are now between the ages of 8 and 10 and require the care of pulmonology, GI, sleep, and neuro-developmental specialists.
Beth estimates she has made more than 50 visits to Akron Children’s ER over the past few years.
“Parents carry stuff – diaper bags, purses, infant carriers, toys. I typically had a stroller or wheelchair and not all of us are petite so, in our meetings, I always questioned door space and room space,” said Beth. “You don’t want to be left in an exam room that feels like closet.”
Beth also recommended family restrooms, glass doors in the ER (where patients are less likely to feel forgotten) and a larger security presence in the ER waiting room.
“Two years ago, I would guess I made an ER visit at least every other month so I know it well,” she said. “I’ve been there when it was standing room only. So I am very excited to see the new ER in action. It’s all about flow, triaging the patients based on symptoms, and getting them treated sooner. Registration will take place in the exam room, so that means one less stop.”
Beth contributed about 100 hours to the project, attending town hall meetings in the evenings, at least 4 all-day design workshops at a warehouse, and many other sessions.
“You see different ideas and I learned so much about how all of these people interact to provide care to keep kids healthy. It was an eye opener,” she said. “There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make the typical ER visit or the typical medical appointment happen.”
Beth’s experience as a member of the design team has impacted how she views her day-to-day life.
“I look at things differently now,” she said. “Whether I am shopping or on a doctor’s appointment myself, I get annoyed if processes are not consumer friendly. Getting my kids ready for bed is now clockwork.”
Beth continues to volunteer as a parent advisor at the hospital, providing input on various hospital committees and performance improvement projects.
“In many places and in many ways, parents are given the opportunity to have a voice in their children’s medical care or education and we need to use those opportunities,” Beth said. “Whenever I walk into that new building, I think I will want to pat myself on the back and say, ‘I did this!’”