Megan Weinman, a nurse manager at Hackensack University Medical Center, vividly recalls one of the surreal moments at the hospital when the COVID-19 pandemic was going strong.
She and some of the other nurses were called to a quick meeting involving a potential feature in the state-of-the-art Helena Theurer Pavilion that was under construction. The designers wanted to get input from the nursing staff about how best to put in a double-door that would enable nurses to stock room supplies outside of the patient’s room — but be able to access those supplies within it.
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Being able to do so would enable nurses to restock supplies without having to don PPE. It was a unique design feature that would save time and save the life-saving equipment.
“I remember, in the middle of COVID, they said, ‘We need you to come make a decision,’” she recalled.
Weinman didn’t mind. It was a feature, she said, that had safety of her and her colleagues in mind.
It’s a feature that was on display Tuesday, during a media tour of the $714.2 million facility that will admit its first patients by the end of the year.
The story, one of many told on the day, showed how Hackensack Meridian Health officials were determined to get input from all of their health care providers in order to build the smartest — and safest — hospital in the state.
Dr. Michael Stifelman, the chair of urology and director of robotic surgery, said the collaboration was incredible.
“What made this so successful is that they brought in all the stakeholders throughout each part of the process to make sure that they were doing it the right way,” he said. “They weren’t saying, ‘Hey, this is what we came up with, enjoy it.’ They were asking us. And, throughout the whole process, they never stopped doing that.”
With six robotic surgical rooms, Stifelman said he has everything he needs and more.
“This is like a pipe dream,” he said. “Something like this doesn’t happen. This could be the most inspirational event that’s occurred in my life, from a work perspective.”
That’s saying a lot, Stifelman said.
“We do amazing things here,” he said. “We write hundreds of papers and abstracts, and we have residents and fellows, and all of that is extremely exciting. But to come here, into a new facility that has been built purposefully to bring us into the 21st century and beyond — and to see all of this coalesce as one and become a reality, is incredible.
“I can’t tell you how inspired I am to continue to keep on pushing and pushing and jump out of bed every morning.”
Others feel the same way.
From the oversized operating rooms with cameras and screens that will help surgeons collaborate with others, to the advanced sterilization and safety features for workers and patients, to oversized staff break rooms (with windows, a kitchenette, a TV and comfortable seating), the new facility speaks for itself.
But will it sell itself?
Stifelman is convinced it will.
“This is going to help us retain our staff, which is so critical,” he said. “It will be a tremendous morale boost — and I think I will allow us to recruit more staff.”
He doesn’t have to convince Dr. Howard Ross, the chair of surgery/surgeon-in-chief at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Ross was recruited to work at HUMC during the pandemic. He said he vividly remembers his first look at the plans for the Helana Theurer Pavilion.
“On my third day here, the architects gave me a private video tour,” he said. “To be honest, I felt like I got a raise. This is a dream to be able to work here.”
For everyone, he said.
“It’s not only for the surgeons; it’s any staff member in any field,” he said. “With the whole health care system having a crisis situation over staffing, this has got to help.”
Weinman is confident it will.
“The last few years have been the hardest years of our life,” she said. “It’s been exhausting. But this is a fresh start.
“We built this building during COVID, we watched it rise up. When this opens in December, it’s going to be incredible.”
A game-changer for all, Weinman said.
“It’s exciting because I know we’re going to be able to provide the safest care for all of our patients and the best patient experience,” she said.
The impact, she said, will be felt outside the four walls of the pavilion.
“We want to recruit,” she said. “We’ve been hard-hit in a nursing field. So, to be able to advertise that we have this state-of-the-art facility with all private rooms — in an environment that’s brand new — is going to help a lot.”