April 9, 1999

These ‘experts’ have definite ideas for new hospital’s design

These 'experts' have definite ideas for new hospital's design


One thing 11-year-old Josh McGill would like to see in the new Children's Hospital is a place for pets. At a recent meeting where planners got design ideas from actual patients, McGill said that when he's in the hospital he really misses his dog. (photo by Donna Jones Bailey)


At a recent design meeting, Architect Alberto Salvatore jotted down ideas from members of the Pediatric Advisory Council. (photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

Imagine this – a logo-shaped hospital especially designed for children. Or maybe one that resembles a train.

Perhaps something with arcade games, indoor pools, playgrounds, hi-tech audio/visual packages for each patient room, and great food.

It's not as far fetched as it sounds, according to Alberto Salvatore, an architect for Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott of Boston, part of the team creating the new Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. During a recent meeting with a group of young patients, the architect urged them to visualize what they wanted the new hospital to look like.

"Where would the coolest place to go to be treated look like?" he asked them. "You should have fun and enjoy your hospital stay. As weird as it sounds, that is our goal. We may not get there 100 percent, but we want to get close."

Members of the PAC, the Pediatric Advisory Council, responded to the request quicker than the team of architects could illustrate them. Among the suggestions – balconies, more windows, a connection to nature, fountains, bigger bathrooms, separate rooms for parents, areas to bring pets, more storage, an indoor gym, art on ceilings of patient rooms, more homelike environment, stereos in each room, computers, and kitchens on each floor.

The PAC, with 22 members ranging in age from 9-19, was formed to be a voice for patients to offer suggestions to those responsible for creating the new hospital.

"We really need the input from the kids," said Janet Cross, childlife director for VCH. "We felt the kids had a lot to offer. They can function in an advisory capacity to tell us about the care they get and give us feedback about how best to improve that.

"We who work in the hospital think we know what the patients and families need. But the best people to ask about that is the customer."

For Chris Potter, 14, of Goodlettsville, joining the group meant a way to express his concerns as well as ideas for the new hospital.

"Everyone in this group has a great imagination," Potter said. "We've all been here a lot and we think we can make it a much better hospital. People are very interested in improving it."

Chelle Pfeffer, 17, of Mt. Juliet, agrees that the group can make a difference in how the hospital looks and feels.

"I just hope we can change the way that hospitals work today for the patients of tomorrow," said Pfeffer. "Hospitals are designed for doctors. They overlook the fact that it's the patient's second home."

The new hospital will be designed as a freestanding, family-centered structure. Construction is expected to begin next year. Although designers had gathered information from families and staff, this was the first time patients were involved in the discussions.

"I was very impressed. They picked out every major issue of health care today," Salvatore said. "They were going for details and those were the real important aspects. These are the folks the hospital is for and they have the greatest insight. We are going to use what they tell us and build from it."