A first-time visitor to Morton Plant Hospital's new women's unit might get confused. With sleek wooden floors, curved lines and art deco hallway sconces, the feel is all posh hotel, not hospital.
The hope is that a lot of healing will take place inside the new unit's walls, maybe even because of them.
"Our goal was to provide a welcoming, healing atmosphere to reduce anxiety," said Lisa Johnson, vice president of patient services at Morton Plant Mease. "Using interior design we created a spa feel, a welcoming environment designed to reduce stress during a difficult time."
That aesthetic begins with the wall of stones seen as the elevator doors open. But just as important is what's missing: There are no antiseptic, alcohol smells. Gone too are the buzzing or blinking nurse lights above each door. No linen or food carts clog halls.
All of those necessities have been reinvented, redesigned or placed out of sight, but remain easily within reach.
Each room in the 20-bed medical surgical gynecology unit has amenities that rival upscale hotels: a flat-screen TV, foldout love seat or couch, computer work station for families, built-in wardrobes and lots of open space. Bathrooms have Corian countertops and big showers. The effect is a soothing environment for patients to recuperate and a pleasant atmosphere for nurses, patient care techs and physicians.
Previously, the space was used for a 24-bed cardiac monitoring unit. Renovations cost $3 million and took seven months. It is the first phase of a $50-million project that will renovate the entire Sarah Walker Women's Center.
Before the unit opened April 19, medical and surgical gynecology patients were located on the seventh floor. They are now on the third floor, which connects to labor and delivery. That transition, and making the unit serene, was important.
"Our gynecology patients, oncology-gynecology patients and breast surgery oncology patients will all come to the unit," said Johnson. "We'll first accommodate those women. However, any woman who is a medical surgical patient and wants a private room can be admitted, without a doctor's order. Our goal is to promote healing. And no one rests as well in a hospital as they do at home, but with the hotel features and spa design, the unit is most welcoming."
Johnson says the unit was designed to put patients at ease.
"One feature I really like is a small upholstered rolling stool under the desk in each room. It's there to encourage physicians, nurses, any caregiver, to sit down. Whether they're going over medical records, discharge teaching, whatever it may be, rather than standing over people, it encourages them to sit eye-to-eye and give information."
Registered nurse Katie Count of Belleair appreciates the amenities, too. She has worked at Morton Plant Hospital, 300 Pinellas St., for 13 years and spent 4 1/2 years in the old medical-surgical gynecology unit.
"This is a complete change," said Count. "Gone is the 1950s sterile smell. We nurses had a lot of input on the new unit and I have to say I love working in the new unit. It's refreshing."
While the unit appears serene, the nurses are equipped with the latest medical technology. Crash carts are hidden in alcoves. Computer stations for charting fold up into the wall and nurses and patient care techs carry specialized phones connected to patient call lights.
Linda Canale, 70, of Pinellas Park spent seven days in the women's unit.
"This is what women are looking for," Canale said. "This hasn't felt like a hospital visit, and I'd have no problem coming back again. This place feels like a hotel, and they don't treat you like a patient. They treat you like a person."