How to Minimize Patient Interference During Construction Projects

Without planning ahead of time, patient lives could be at risk during construction projects.

By Mackenna Moralez, Associate Editor

When it comes down to it, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are designed specifically for patients. With vulnerable lives at stake, there is a lot to consider before taking on a healthcare facility project. Something as simple as flipping a switch on a breaker without proper identification could potentially endanger someone’s life. Healthcare Facilities Today recently spoke with Brittany Burbes, project executive at DPR Construction about how construction workers can tackle new projects with minimal interference on a healthcare setting.  

HFT: How do you coordinate with healthcare facility staff to develop a construction schedule that accommodates their needs and minimizes interference? 

Brittany Burbes: Making sure staff leadership is a part of the planning process is key to a smooth project. We engage with staff by providing models of the plan to better visualize what the space will look like during construction. Additionally, we will walk with staff and talk through workflow and logistics of operations. During these walks we look at equipment they use to make sure we are providing accessibility to the equipment or have a relocation plan. It can be helpful to clinical staff to see tape on the floor of where temporary walls will go vs. just seeing the construction plans, so we often do this, too. 

Related: Maintaining Safety in Healthcare Construction Projects

HFT: What kind of contingency plans do you have in place to address unexpected challenges that might arise during healthcare facility upgrades? 

Burbes: Healthcare inherently has challenges that can be anticipated and planned for. Acute care is designed and built to last; therefore, teams need to anticipate they will come across aging infrastructure in almost every facility they touch. We approach our projects with that mindset. A great example of that is existing shut-off valves. Plan A can always be to utilize the existing shut-off valve. That valve might not have been exercised in years and is no longer operational. Plan B then kicks in and our teams work closely with facilities to understand how far back the next opportunity for shut-off is. Depending on the magnitude of the impact, we can line out multiple options – like utilizing line stops to reduce the impact. Creating a risk log for every project at the beginning helps identify risks like this to make sure the contingency plans are not a surprise but built into the project from day 1. 

HFT: How do you engage with patients, families, and staff to gather feedback on the construction process and address any concerns they may have? 

Burbes: Depending on the facility and scale of the project, we have engaged with patients and families in many ways. We often hold monthly “townhall” meetings for the community where we report out on the current construction process and allow for open Q&A to address any concerns. On smaller-scale projects, we like to update patients and staff on construction by utilizing a QR code with project updates or by simply posting renderings and photos on our Infection Control barriers. 

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor of the facilities market.  

March 26, 2024

Topic Area: Construction , Maintenance and Operations

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