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Madigan opens new baby unit

Newly remodeled mother/baby room at Madigan Army Medical Center on JBLM, ready for patients on the third floor. Photo credit: Kirstin Grace-Simons

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MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord - Madigan Army Medical Center has been in its current location on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, since 1992. In the three decades since its opening, the Maternal Child Health - commonly referred to as the Mother/Baby Unit - has welcomed a lot of Army "brats" into the world. The new digs the unit opened last week are nicer than ever.

Years of planning and nearly two years of remodeling have repurposed old patient rooms on the third floor of the hospital tower that had been used as offices for years. Now, they are bright and homey patient rooms.

"This is really focused towards providing that family-centered environment - we have ample space, ample seating for everybody," said Lt. Col. Anne Daniele, the department chief for Maternal Child Health. The rooms have "ambient lighting, so it's just warm and inviting, it doesn't look as sterile. I know this sounds very silly, but we got new flat screen TVs, whereas on the other side they had, like this bedside TV that the patients could use," she continued.

"The other side" that Daniele referred to is the other side of the floor. This remodel swaps the end of the third floor that will house moms and their new babies from the south end to the north end. Eventually, the old patient rooms will get remodeling and repurposing as well. Some may become patient rooms again, in time.

Patients and their supporting partners and visitors will likely not find the new amenities silly at all. The flat screen on the wall is one of many items that makes the new rooms look and feel much like a modern home.

The upgraded rooms have replaced the old rooms' pull-out chair with a full-size sofa that converts to a bed. The baby has a bassinet that sits atop a set of drawers and is wheeled for easy mobility. Each room has both cabinets and garages that put equipment like patient lifts and oxygen close at hand and easy to use but out of sight, and out of the way, when not in use.

It is touches like these that make the staff so excited to share the new unit with their patients.

Julie Rise, the assistant head nurse for the unit, has been a Madigan mainstay for 18 years. If she hasn't yet, she'll likely soon start helping a second generation of babies into the world on the third floor.

Of the many improvements the new unit boasts, she wasn't sure where to start in pointing out the highlights. From the finishes that are more reminiscent of a home than a hospital to the built-in desk with computer, that TV screen and the storage for patient, clinicians and supporting family, she expects it will all make for a better patient experience.

The bathroom did not escape her attention.

"The bathrooms themselves are much larger and much more easily accessible for the patient," she noted. "The showers are much bigger, there are seats and then a handheld showerhead, so we're hoping that will be a big plus for the patient," she added as she quickly noted the "step-through easy in and out," zero threshold shower.

The remodel and move not only increase the usability of the room itself, but they also increase the capacity of the unit from 15 to 18 rooms. The new rooms were designed to be used by a single patient where the old ones were double rooms that have long been used for individual patients. Even though the old rooms only had a single patient in them, they did not look and feel as much like a private space as the new rooms do.

The new rooms are clearly designed to be a family space. But that doesn't mean they aren't fully equipped to take care of every clinical need as well.

Preparing for this move has meant making a space for equipment and procedures and ensuring staff are ready to care for patients in every situation in these new spaces. Doctors, nurses and other staff have been running drills for weeks.

Leading up to the move, Spc. Jordan Douglas, a licensed practical nurse on the unit, rushed down the hall carrying a newborn mannequin with Ann Peppers, an advanced practice pediatric nurse, Capt. (Dr.) Joseph Marotto, Ameera Haq, a graduate medical education student on a rotation in Pediatrics and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Ashley Pavey, the director of neonatology, in tow. He headed to a treatment room where the team practiced resuscitating the baby. As he went, he called in a code to the communications center to get more clinicians to come assist.

Once in the room, the senior nurses and doctors stepped back and let the LPN and intern practice. They were all shortly joined by Neal de Leon, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse and Capt. (Dr.) Joshua Dejong, a pediatrics resident. De Leon got to work retrieving medications from the cart in the room as Dejong came to the aid of Douglas as they acquainted themselves with the new room and its setup.

Another nurse came to the room to report how the communication was heard as an overhead page. Throughout this exercise, and for some time after, this group plus Daniele and Rise, assessed their performance and what additional aids they could use to make certain they can provide care as comfortably in the spaces on 3 North as they long have on 3 South.

As the Maternal Child Health team prepares, Rise makes it clear that the Facility Management Division has been very helpful in completing requests to get every aspect of the rooms ready for patients. The new rooms will be unveiled as they are ready. Most are ready to go and have patients transferred to them while others will have all their electronics and paint touchups finished off in the very near future.

In addition to the new rooms, the new unit will have the lactation consultants close at hand and a remodeled lactation room where anyone, to include visitors and staff, can use the recliner and sink in the private, locked room to breastfeed or pump.

To find out more about having a baby at Madigan, visit our webpage at: But do note that the postpartum room section at the end of the virtual video tour will be different.

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