Welcome to the new Outpatient Surgery website! Check out our login FAQs.
Oh, the Lessons I've Learned
Oh, the Lessons I've Learned
Nancy Burden
Publish Date: January 10, 2009   |  Tags:   Facility Construction and Design

I'm currently involved in my fourth surgery center construction project, so you'd think the process would be mistake-free, absent of the missteps experienced by first-time builders. If only that were the case. No matter how many ORs you frame or sterile corridors you map, don't expect to cut the opening day ribbon without a few woulda-shoulda-coulda moments. The key is to minimize those forehead-slapping regrets. Here's how.

Drill down. Pay attention to every detail during the architectural phase, even though it's easy and tempting to gloss over the first design your architect presents. It's during the design phase that changes are free. The construction wheels are set in motion once you sign off on the final plans, making subsequent changes costly.

Don't be afraid to schedule a series of meetings with the architect to discuss the changes he needs to make to the initial design. Some of those meetings might involve very specific topics. Our staff, for example, once met with the architect about the cabinetry we needed to install. Reviewing such details takes time. Expect the blueprint approval process to take months, not weeks.

Ask the experts. Review the initial plans with the frontline staff, seeking their candid feedback about how the design will affect their abilities to work efficiently. They're the ones who'll know if counters are too high at the registration area or the PACU doesn't have enough beds to serve your case volume. They'll also be able to confirm that all gases and cords will reach the OR bed, regardless of how the bed is positioned during cases.

Lean on those who know. Your architect should have completed surgical facilities on his design resume. Even if he's a successful healthcare designer, drawing up an MRI center, for example, is far different than designing a surgical suite. Make sure your architect is an expert in local and national design codes, open to change and willing to meet with you and your staff as many times as needed to perfect the final plan. Check the architect's references to make sure he's a team player and willing to point out cost-saving design features. For example, our architect included one unisex bathroom instead of two gender-specific restrooms. Remember to rely on his expertise. During each meeting and each design phase ask, "What haven't I brought up? What should we be talking about right now?"