February 6, 2004

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital prepares for Sunday’s move

Featured Image

Ann Johnson, RN at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, gets Carol Eck, a former child herself, set up in her room in the new PCCU during a mock move day drill held in January. This was the second drill to prepare staff for Sunday’s move. Photo by Dana Johnson

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital prepares for Sunday’s move

Jennifer Martin, a child life specialist, wheels mock patient Raye Nell Dyer to radiology during the mock move day drill last month.  Photo by Dana Johnson

Jennifer Martin, a child life specialist, wheels mock patient Raye Nell Dyer to radiology during the mock move day drill last month. Photo by Dana Johnson

This weekend will be an historic one for Vanderbilt and Nashville. The area’s first free-standing, full-service children’s hospital will open Sunday.

Approximately 150 children staying at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital inside Vanderbilt University Medical Center will be moved through a connector bridge, 400 yards from their original rooms on floors four, five and six, to the new Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

It may sound simple enough to move patients from one place to the other; after all, patients are moved all the time in hospitals for testing or procedures. But if you begin to consider what a mass move entails — a one-way trip for patients, staff and equipment, critically ill patients moving the length of four football fields, and all the things that could potentially go wrong — then you begin to get a glimpse inside Barb Walczyk’s world.

Walczyk, an administrative director with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, has been working out the details of the move since September of last year. A key element of planning for the move has been two large-scale, mock-moves. The first drill, on Dec. 22, was designed to test the routes, the command center and technology like two-way radios, normally used for disasters, that are being used to coordinate the move. It was a great success.

“We thought about 60 volunteers would show up and we got 140,” Walczyk said.

On Jan. 5, the second drill to troubleshoot problems with the actual patient transport took place on a sunny mid-morning, the same time of day the patients will actually move.

Two-way radios murmured and spat static, phones rang, pens flashed, intent notes were taken. The new Wadlington conference room at Vanderbilt Children’s became “command central” for the first full-scale drill for the move.

About 30 minutes into the move of 16 patients, played by adult volunteers, a call came in from about half-way down the 400-yard-long connector. A pre-school-aged ‘child’ was demanding a snack “now!” A volunteer designated as a snack carrier was quickly dispatched to meet the ‘child’ in the connector.

Moments later, a staff member alerted command central that the ‘child’ was not allowed to have any food or drink. They were scheduled for surgery that same day and had to keep an empty stomach.

The snack dispenser was called off, leaving a volunteer to play the part of a very disappointed and hungry ‘child’; but a fairly serious mistake was averted.

Walczyk planned for several problems commonly seen on patient floors to come up during the drills. There were bigger problems built into the script as well, like a child going into respiratory distress and a parent getting seriously ill along the way. All the ideas for potential disasters came from the real-life experiences of staff members.

“Every time we met to discuss the transition, some concern would come up, mostly from the clinical staff, about the move,” Walczyk said. “We’d take a mental note and say, ‘you know, we should test that.’”

The second drill was a complete success, cutting transport time down to a third of what it took to complete the first drill.

“We are ready,” Walczyk said without hesitation. “We have contingencies for just about anything that could happen internally. The only problem could be with the weather. If a major snow keeps a significant part of the staff at home, we might have timing issues.”

Walczyk, Director of Nursing Pat Chenger and Assistant Director Debbie Arnow have been through disasters and moves before, as has CEO Jim Shmerling.

“This team knows what to do,” Walczyk said.

More than 100 volunteers are ready to help make the move a smooth one. That’s not counting the faculty and staff who will be “working the move,” wheeling their patients across the 400-yard connector between the Children’s Hospital portion of VUH, and the new Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital on Children's Way.

All told, about 500 people will be involved in the Feb. 8 move. It’s the largest move in Vanderbilt history, perhaps in the city’s history.

The move officially begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday with Champ, the mascot, kicking off the move at the fourth floor connector on the VUH side. One by one, he will send off the young patients and the staff and faculty who care for them.

The patients in the move won’t be the first people in the new Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Many staff members moved their offices a month or more ago, and beginning at 7 a.m. Sunday, all new pediatric patients are to report to the new hospital. Services like the Pediatric Emergency Department officially open for business, taking all new emergency cases at the brand new Peds ED rather than down the street across from the adult Emergency Department.

As the day progresses, Walczyk is hoping that the faculty, staff and patients will feel a sense of pride in the day.

“We’re trying to make sure that they enjoy the day,” Walczyk said. “We want them to just take one moment during the move to stop and realize that they are making history, not just for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, but for the whole region.”