Today’s healthcare market is increasingly driven by individuals empowered to make intelligent decisions for themselves, including women rethinking the traditional birthing experience. In turn, hospitals are beginning to adapt Labor and Delivery spaces that meet this broader spectrum of patient preferences. McMillan Pazdan Smith recently completed just such a renovation project for Greenville Health System’s Memorial Campus in Greenville, South Carolina
The challenge was to transform a group of three traditional delivery rooms into two expanded suites with a variety of options for alternative delivery techniques. From the aesthetic to the floor plan, the new rooms bridge the gap between a natural home water birth and a traditional hospital birth, addressing the needs of both midwives and nurses, and creating new options for modern mothers.
Labor and Delivery is one of the few healthcare experiences where the patient is admitted to the hospital, but isn’t actually ill,” says Laura Jones, Project Architect, McMillan Pazdan Smith. “This approach required a totally different mindset than many other areas inside a hospital. You’re taking something natural, often done at home, and putting it inside the hospital. You’re trying to make something feel non-clinical while in reality it’s still highly clinical. It was an exciting challenge.”
After gutting the space wall-to-wall, we raised the ceiling several inches and updated millwork, soffits and wall colors to create a lighter, more open feeling. Flexible lighting options meet both the mothers’ and the clinical staff’s needs throughout the room, incorporating dimmable zones, a backlit headwall and black-out window shades. In-room personal speaker systems allow the mother to attach personal audio devices for the music of their choice. Individual thermostats add to the mother’s comfort. The headwall was transformed into a decorative element by hiding gas and power on the sides, instead of their traditional eye-level frontal location.
Even the interior material selections balance the comfort of home with clinical-grade sterility. What appears to be woodplank flooring is actually sheet-good flooring welded wall-to-wall. Likewise, the residential-style cabinetry is solid-surface, non-porous material with wood veneers. The bathrooms were designed open showers that can accommodate a mother laboring on a birthing ball, along with a midwife and the father, and non-automatic-flush toilets for mothers to safely labor there as well.
As a renovation-in-place, the highly-specialized tubs did offer a few challenges – how to line up plumbing with the existing structure, and how to manage the weight of the tubs structurally. The tubs resemble Jacuzzis, but are actually a pipeless system better suited for sanitation. We also had to position them strategically within the room to provide clinical staff easy access to the mother on three sides of the tub. Plus, as one of the first hospitals in the state to install birthing tubs, this project was a learning experience not only for the architects and engineers, but also for state regulatory officials – there were no rules and requirements in place when the project started. Even hospital maintenance and clinical staff had to learn how to upkeep and clean the space and equipment.
People are excited because the space doesn’t feel clinical,” says McMillan Pazdan Smith’s Laura Jones, Project Architect. “It’s warm and comfortable like home instead of feeling institutional. But right across the hall is a NICU and a whole clinical staff to backup the natural process if needed.”