On Jan. 28, staff on Ellison 19 and Bigelow 14 came to work ready to meet the challenge of new patient populations. The units looked much the same as they had in the past, however, Vascular Surgery moved from Bigelow 14 to Ellison 19 to join Thoracic Surgery, and Bigelow 14 became a dedicated General Medicine Unit.

“We went from a surgical unit to all medicine,” says Sharon Bouvier, RN, nursing director of Bigelow 14. “In the beginning, it was a mix of emotions for the staff. There was some excitement, some anxiety and a little trepidation as we were working as a new team of providers. We had established relationships with the surgical team staff and we now had a new group of Hospital Medicine clinicians to get to know. We continue to learn and grow and develop these relationships. It’s great that we have such dedicated colleagues from other medical units who are so willing to help and share resources and information during this transition.”

These inpatient unit changes marked the first stage of the MGH’s bed-reallocation project, one of the hospital’s many initiatives aimed at addressing capacity challenges. The second phase of this project is scheduled to launch April 23 with Phillips 21 – now a Gynecology Unit – transitioning to a General Medicine Unit with Hospital Medicine, and Phillips 22 – currently a General Surgery, General Medicine and Orthopaedics Unit – transitioning to a Gynecology and General Surgery Unit. The last phase of the bed reallocation project is slated to take place in the fall.

These transitions have been carefully planned under the leadership of Suzanne Algeri, RN, associate chief nurse, and George Reardon, director of PCS Clinical Support Services, with the goal of achieving a seamless process ensuring patients receive the same expert, high-quality care.

“We had a vascular patient who had been admitted several times before, and she told us at first she was nervous that she didn’t recognize any of the staff. But she told us later she was very happy with the care she received,” says Michelle Anastasi, RN, nurse director of Ellison 19.

“Our teams have a really strong commitment to their patients. Health care is always changing – there is always something new and there are continuous learning opportunities. While it hasn’t always been easy, staff are resilient, and they are embracing the new opportunities. They know it takes time to establish expertise and they know it will happen,” Anastasi added.

During the past two months, the units have hosted additional staff meetings and huddles to help with the transition, and leadership has recognized efforts with deliveries of pizza and cake as tokens of appreciation. Staff on both units received fleece vests, and, in the early days of the transition, nurses on Bigelow 14 dressed in purple to celebrate the name of their Hospital Medicine provider team, “Albright Purple.”

“This project really highlights how highly skilled our nursing staff is and how they can retrain themselves to care for a new patient population,” says Peter Dunn, MD, vice president of Perioperative Services and Healthcare System Engineering. “We know this is a challenging time right now, but we also know we will see a real benefit to the hospital in 6 to 12 months. It’s moving us in a positive direction.” 

This article was originally published in the 04/19/19 Hotline issue.