Patients to stay put, families to be welcome in new center

Edwin Whitaker describes his heart attack like this: "The lights went out. My heart just stopped."


"He was no pulse, not breathing and blue," his brother Edward said from across the room at University Hospital. Their mother gave all the boys names that begin with "e."

Fortunately for Edwin, his sister-in-law is a nurse, and she was able to perform CPR until an ambulance arrived.

"Somebody worked a miracle," Edward said.

Nearly a week later, they were getting ready to leave a telemetry, or monitored, room at University, having already changed rooms once from a critical care unit a couple of doors down. Once University moves into a new cardiovascular center in January, however, that won't happen and other standards of care will change.

To get ready for the big changes, the hospital has dedicated a unit on the fourth floor to help retrain staff. The Cardiac Progressive Care Unit doesn't yet have all universal rooms, which the new center will have. They will allow all levels of care to be delivered in the same room, said Lynda Jones, the director of cardiac and telemetry services.

But the unit is already implementing some of the policy changes, such as more open family visitation. In many intensive care units, families might get a half-hour or an hour at a time, said nurse Jimmy Shouse.

"To me, having that open visitation so family members can come back and see the care their loved ones are getting, it really cuts down on their anxiety issues about how their family members are being treated," he said.

In a review published last year, the Society of Critical Care Medicine called on hospitals to open up ICUs to more visitation from family members. It also means a change of mind set, said Beverly Johnson, the president and CEO of the Institute for Family-Centered Care.

"Families are allies for quality and safety," she said. "They're not visitors."

At University, the new larger rooms also have space for a family member to stay with the patient, Ms. Jones said. Most of all, the patient doesn't have to move if the level of care changes, which can cut down on a lot of potential problems and might save half a day on the length of stay, she said. And it might cut down on anxiety from such a move.

"There's a big fear when a patient is transferred out of critical care," she said. "They're going to a new unit. They've got new staff. They don't know any faces."

When she talks of the facility, which is expected to be completed by the end of December, Ms. Jones calls it "the new world." And for her staff, it will be.

"I think it is going to be a new world because we're embracing a different model of care that we've been preparing for now for three years," she said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or


University Hospital is expecting to wrap up a massive $94 million renovation by April 2009. The largest piece, a 199,000-square-foot cardiovascular center with 72 patient rooms, will open in January.