Tatandia Bates traveled 90 miles by ambulance to UAB Hospital from Selma Feb. 5 to give birth to her baby girl Asiah in what she described as both a euphoric and traumatic event. Asiah is Bates’ first child, but she was born 16 weeks early and weighed only 1.4 pounds.

More than 150 babies, moms and mothers-to-be were moved to their new rooms in the 43,000-square-foot building — a symbol of UAB’s commitment to improving the health and lives of the women and infants of Alabama and the Southeast.
The care Bates and Miss Asiah — as mom calls her — received from the time of their arrival gave her confidence that they were where they needed to be, she said. As she sat patiently in the lobby of the new Women & Infants Center Sunday, Feb. 21 waiting for UAB personnel to bring Asiah the two blocks from her RNICU in the Old Hillman Building to the spacious new state-of-the-art women’s facility on move-in day.

When Bates walked into Asiah’s private RNICU room in the Women & Infants Center for the first time, she was excited to have time alone with her baby girl.

“The old place was really crowded, and it was hard to spend quality time with Miss Asiah,” Bates said. “This room is very inviting. There’s much more space, and I’ll be able to stay with my baby.”

Satisfied residents repeated those thoughts and words often when the Women & Infants Center officially opened.

More than 150 babies, moms and mothers-to-be were meticulously moved through the hospital elevators and hallways to their new rooms in the 430,000-square-foot building — a symbol of UAB’s commitment to improving the health and lives of the women and infants of Alabama and the Southeast.

The facility increases UAB’s capacity to care for Alabama’s women and babies. It offers Alabama’s only private NICU rooms, the most modern C-section and post-anesthesia recovery suites, state-of-the-art patient-care rooms and technologically advanced communication and security systems.

But before patients could experience the latest in technology and care, they had to be moved to the facility. It was a process that took months of planning and preparation.

Tiny patients on the move
Changing locations during a hospital stay can add stress to any patient, especially those who are critical and require constant care and monitoring like Asiah.

UAB staff mapped out a plan for moving each unit weeks in advance and pinpointed exactly the way they would move the most critical patients — those in the RNICU — the week of the move.

“We identified early in the week how they would be transported — either in their crib, a bed or the transport isolette, which is equipped with monitoring devices, a ventilator and nitric oxide if we needed it,” said Donna Purvis, RNICU nurse manager. “We identified the level of care they needed during the move — if they needed a physician with them, for example. We knew which babies we would be moving every 15 minutes. We had it all laid out.”

Three RNICU move teams were created, each consisting of two to three nurses, a technician and a physician as needed. A cleaning station was set up for the four transport isolettes so tanks and batteries could be changed after each move.

Warming mattresses also were ordered several weeks ahead of time and placed in every isolette to keep the babies from being stressed by any change in temperature.

The move began at 7 a.m. and was expected to continue until 6:30 p.m. Instead, every critical-care infant was in his or her new room by 2:30 p.m.

“So much work was put into planning this, and it paid off,” Purvis said. “It was so smooth, and all of the patients did great.”

Madonnna Nichols, nurse clinical project coordinator, was in the command center to coordinate all of the moving parts.

Nurses radioed to her when they were ready to move, and when all of the teams were in place throughout the move route she gave the OK to go.

The day passed without any incidents, Nichols says, and a big reason for the success was the preparation the nursing staff put in to make it an easy transition.

“The nursing staff can make or break something like this, and they are the ones to thank for the successful move,” Nichols said. “They chose to jump in headfirst and plan this move down to each footstep to make sure that the needs of their patients were addressed. Brandi Duke, clinical project coordinator, was instrumental in ensuring every single final detail of the building was ready so that we could receive patients easily. Patients and their families were at the forefront of everyone’s mind in all of their planning; it was obvious on moving day how truly incredible was their work.”

The nurses were eager to move to the new facility because they knew it was going to help them provide better care for their patients, said Erica Wall, RNICU nurse.

“This is going to be wonderful for us, our patients and families,” Wall said. “There’s so much more room now. Parents always felt like they were in the way in the old unit because we were all packed in tightly over there. And the privacy the families now are afforded is so important. Babies and parents will be able to bond better now.”

Benefits to staff, families
Purvis said the Women & Infants Center now gives the physicians and nurses the high-tech equipment to equal the high-touch care they already provide.

“This staff is clinically excellent, and the facility now matches their expertise,” Purvis said. “These are big changes for them, and we’ve worked hard to educate and let them spend time in the facility before the move to help them with their comfort level.”

The ability of parents to stay with their children in the RNICU as long as they desire is a major benefit for the baby’s growth and development, said Elicia Daley, administrative director of Women & Infants Services.

The RNICU is never closed, and parents can include extended family — something that was impossible in the old location. A family room is located in the unit, as is a playroom for siblings, and each patient has their own room with a door that can be closed by the parents for added privacy.

“We’ve now moved all of Women’s Services into four floors of this building; it’s no longer spread out on campus. This enhances our ability to focus on health issues that affect women along the spectrum of their life continuum,” Daley said. “Our mission is to be a family/patient-centered facility. Parents are our partners in caring for their child, and we encourage parents to be involved to give them confidence in their ability to take care of their baby when they go home. It cuts down on their frustrations because they know what’s going on.”

Parents also now can be present during physician rounds, which gives them an opportunity to ask questions.

“If there’s something they don’t understand, that’s their opportunity to get it clarified,” Daley says. “The increased interaction and communication with the caregivers makes us more productive.”

Families already had settled into their new environment within an hour of the move, and Bates, her mother and grandmother were among the families relaxed and at ease.

The privacy is something Bates will treasure in the long weeks ahead. Asiah is expected to be in the hospital until the end of May. Bates knows there will be times of exasperation and admits there is a fear of the unknown. She also knows she’ll be able to share every one of those moments with her baby girl.

“I really appreciate the care UAB has given to me and Miss Asiah,” she said. “They’ve been so nice and helped us in so many ways. If she has to be in the hospital for so long, it’s great that we have a place so nice and that we can be in here together.”

Visit www.uabmedicine.org/women for more information on the center.