Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota held a ribbon-cutting Wednesday at its newly remodeled Minneapolis campus.
The expansion cost $230 million and provided a substantial upgrade to the hospital's rooms and equipment.
The project is the first of three major pediatric hospital expansions to be completed in the Twin Cities. Each is an example of a major transformation in the way doctors and nurses do their jobs.
The physical changes at the hospital are obvious to anyone who walks through the front door. Vibrant colors and whimsical artwork adorn the walls and tile floor. Flat-screen TVs cycle through images of toys and happy babies. Wander a little deeper inside the hospital and you'll see spacious new hospital units, designed to give young patients and their families privacy.
"We had seven rooms for 44 kids," said Dr. Ellen Bendel-Stenzel, a neonatologist in the newborn intensive care unit. "Now we have 44 rooms for 44 kids."
Bendel-Stenzel said her old unit was crazy at times -- a loud, busy place with a lot of life-and-death drama for all to see.
"It used to be that when a child was having difficulty and sort of everything was falling apart, the entire unit knew about it," she said. "And now we don't have that anymore. It's quiet."
The premium on privacy has required nurses and doctors to adjust the way they practice medicine at the hospital. Having 44 rooms instead of seven means that sick babies are spread out across a much larger area.
Bendel-Stenzel admitted she was a little nervous at first about whether she would be able to get to her patients quickly. It has been inconvenient for her at times, but she said the care she gives hasn't suffered.
"I have to walk a lot more. But that's okay. That means I can eat more cookies," she said.
Just one floor above her unit, the doctors and nurses in the cardiovascular department are working in a space that makes their jobs easier.
"We're probably walking a whole lot less," said Dr. David Burton.
After years of being spread out across the hospital, Burton said his team is happy to finally be located in one place.
"We used to be on the first floor and the patient would get transitioned to the fifth floor. So we went first to fifth, first to fifth and you had to go up and down. And now I'm walking much less," he said.
Like the new privacy changes in the neonatal unit, the changes in Burton's department were also designed to make the hospital experience easier and safer for patients.
Transitioning patients from one floor to the next comes with the risk that critical information could get overlooked in the hand-off to a new set of doctors and nurses.
On the new cardiology unit there's no longer any need to transfer patients elsewhere because the unit is equipped with its own cardiac operating room and a cardiac catheterization lab.
"They get admitted in here for anything cardiac-related and go home from here and never transfer out of this unit," Burton said.
Sarah Dschaak, a new mom, appreciates the stability. Her nine-month-old daughter Shay is recovering from heart surgery. Sarah Dschaak said it has made a tremendous difference to have the same nurses attend to her daughter over the past two weeks.
During her first heart surgery at Children's Hospital earlier this year, Shay was transferred to another unit part-way through her hospital stay. Sarah Dschaak said she also got a different set of caretakers.
"That was a big change which I didn't really like," she said. "But now it's like they'll stay with her the whole time and then when we get close to going home, there will still be a nurse relatively close."
Sarah Dschaak, who's from Hettinger, North Dakota, is also a big fan of the new private rooms. "We're not used to being able to stay," she said. "Where I come from, you know, you have to make your own arrangements. Or in the bigger hospitals you sleep in the lobby."
Two other children's hospitals will complete major construction projects next year. The University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital is expected to open a brand new facility in March. And Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota will complete renovations on its St. Paul hospital next fall.