Madonna University College of Nursing and Health

Lifelike hospital setting provides ideal learning environment

Livonia, Michigan, US

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A healthcare classroom combines chairs and desks with mock patient rooms.

Photo credit: James Haefner

Founded in 1937, Madonna University has an outstanding reputation for its excellent nursing program. In the competitive education world, Madonna’s College of Nursing and Health, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, is in the enviable position of consistently meeting enrollment goals with well-qualified students.   

 Lifelike Setting

In 2011, the College began planning the renovation of some existing spaces which would become five new Simulation Labs—a high acuity area, a birthing unit, and two patient rooms*. These high-tech, innovative additions, complete with computerized “patient” manikins, would give the school’s approximately 600 undergrad and graduate nursing students the opportunity to learn in lifelike hospital settings. “We wanted our students to feel they were in the professional environment in which they would soon be working,” explains Dr. Patricia Vint, Director of the Nursing Simulation Labs.

The renovation would also entail installing and integrating the latest hospital furniture and equipment within the comprehensive teaching suite, so students could immediately put into practice what they learned in the classroom. To help them achieve their goals, Madonna turned to Herman Miller dealership Facility Matrix Group.

Life-like patient rooms for students, comprised of Compass modular systems.

Photo credit: James Haefner
The Compass modular system creates a lifelike hospital setting, complete with built-in sink, where students learn in a real world environment. 

As the dealership’s VP of Marketing, Lisa Whalls recalls, “The College’s biggest issue was flexibility; they wanted to make sure the products would meet their teaching needs and could also be moved if they expanded in the future. And, as it is often in learning institutions, cost efficiency was also a key factor.”

Dr. Teresa Thompson, Dean of the College of Nursing and Health, says the ability to make changes is important because, “We need to be able to adapt to on-going changes in the healthcare arena to ensure that our students understand the quality and safety issues hospitals face.”

A Modular Solution

Herman Miller’s modular healthcare products proved to be an ideal solution on all fronts. As many hospitals are discovering today, when it comes to furniture and casework, modular components offer advantages that leave built-ins, well, in the dust.

Compass, a modular headwall system created specifically for healthcare environments, was designed for flexibility and is an excellent economic value as well.

“One of the best things about it is that we can set up areas the way we want to for whatever clinical situation we’re addressing, and we can add to the system later if we need to,” says Dean Thompson.  

If, in a few years, or months, the College should expand or renovate, the components can all be moved and reinstalled quickly and easily in another area or building without any major demolition or downtime.

Steve Scheffler, a long-time installer with Facility Matrix Group, attests to the system’s flexibility–and ease of installation. “Once you get the rails positioned and level, everything snaps right into place and aligns perfectly, nothing has to be finagled at all,” he says.

Two mock patient rooms set up within a classroom environment.

Photo credit:  James Haefner
Individual Compass components can easily be moved around to facilitate teaching, and the entire system can be rearranged or moved if needs changed.

Preassembled Infrastructure

Herman Miller headwall partner, Hospital Systems, Inc. (HSI), builds the “behind the wall” infrastructure necessary to support the Compass system, including outlets for gas, air, electricity, and water. It all arrives pre-assembled, pre-piped and ready to go. 

Without this type of infrastructure, says Scheffler, “you might have four different trades working on this headwall all at different times, which would extend installation time significantly. But it only took us about 15 minutes. The fact that it went in so quickly was really crucial so construction didn’t fall behind.”

“When you’re working in a real hospital environment, saving time is always critical because of patient care,” says Whalls, adding that using HSI’s solution also saved the College about 20 percent in installation costs. “It meant they only had to deal with one vendor as opposed to having to coordinate with all the trades, so it saved them a lot of coordination time, too.”

Flexibility Saves The Day

The flexibility factor of Compass came into play early on, when the design team discovered there wasn’t as much space allotted for the Compass system as the plans originally showed. “Because of the system’s modularity, we were still able to create exactly what they needed,” says Facility Matrix Group designer Mara Dermer.

Big Help From Z-AXIS

Everyone agrees one of the most beneficial tools during the planning process was Herman Miller’s Z-Axis program, which created three-dimensional images showing how the furniture would look and function in the space. “We put all the images in a booklet for the project team, and that not only helped them visualize the space, but it streamlined the whole decision-making process,” says Whalls. “Most of them had never been involved in this type of project, and they didn’t have a lot of time to be making decisions; they were busy with classroom instruction.” 

“Showing the images also made the labs much more ‘real’ for everyone,” says Andrea Nodge, vice president for Advancement at Madonna. “It brought the Simulation Labs to life, so faculty, donors, and board members could visualize how these new labs would impact our ability to educate our nursing students.”

A computer image of a proposed patient room setup.

Z-Axis images helped staff visualize the space and streamlined the decision-making process.

A 3-D computer image showing the planning of a patient room.

The 3-D images were also used to show faculty, board members, and donors how the new labs would enhance the education process.

Real World Environments

The Simulation Labs are all about creating lifelike hospital settings. The computerized manikins simulate real people having medical issues such as cardiac failure or going into labor. Two-way mirrors let instructors observe and videotape the future nurses in action and critique accordingly.

“It’s so important that our students have a lifelike experience where they can increase their confidence, comfort, and competence in a risk-free setting,” says Dean Thompson. “They take a different approach in that kind of environment; it makes them feel as though they really are in an ER or delivery room taking care of someone.”

Best of all, the students love it. “They’re so excited when they come in and see the dramatic change from what we had before,” says Assistant Professor Corinne Kee, MS, RN. “They’re thrilled to have the opportunity to practice in that space.”

A manikin lies inside of a simulated patient room for healthcare students.

Computerized manikins simulate patients having real medical conditions, giving students the opportunity to learn patient care in a risk-free environment.

Important Tours Stop

The nursing faculty and admissions staff make sure the Simulation Labs are included when potential students and their parents tour the school. “I won’t say appearance is everything, but it doesn’t hurt,” says Dean Thompson. “What’s really important to us is that the Simulation Labs add to our overall reputation and to the strength of our program. This elevates us considerably in terms of known quality.”

Potential students—and their parents—are always impressed. “Our ER set up is so lifelike someone asked if we were going to be treating real patients here,” says Kee, who was instrumental in bringing real work practice concepts into the learning areas.

So far, the College hasn’t had to make any major changes, but, as Dr. Vint observes, “What’s nice is that we have the ability to move the furniture around to suit our needs without having to call maintenance every time we want to make a small change.”

Go With The Leader

Coming from a background of K-12, where she was often involved in renovations of libraries and media centers, Dr. Vint was already familiar with Herman Miller. “They’ve always been the leader in the field,” she says. “If you want a first-rate company that really knows what they’re doing when it comes to furniture solutions, you go with Herman Miller.”

Dean Thompson says Herman Miller’s vast knowledge about hospital settings was very beneficial throughout the planning process. “We had ideas, too, but their healthcare representatives were extremely helpful talking to us about today’s hospital environments. Best of all, she adds, “We ended up with labs and learning spaces that Madonna students are very, very proud of.”

*A community/home unit was also created, but Herman Miller was not involved in that.