DeKALB – For Kim Aldis, director of oncology services at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Cancer Center, the new $2.2 million facility upgrade is all about patient access.
The state-of-the-art cancer center is closing its first decade with the multiproject upgrade, which started in May and was completed Dec. 21. Careful consideration for expanding patient privacy during treatment was a central part of the renovations, such as the creation of additional private infusion bays for receiving chemotherapy and other time-intensive treatments such as iron or blood transfusions. Nurse and pharmacy stations have been added throughout the single-floor facility, as well as a state-of-the-art video conferencing room for groups of doctors to brainstorm treatment paths for patients. The project was funded through the center’s strategic capital plan.
“It came down to patient access,” Aldis said as she gave a tour of the new spaces at 10 Health Services Drive. “We couldn’t get patients in timely because we didn’t have space to do that. We really reorganized to maximize space internally.”
The center, which serves about 100 patients a day from across the region, now has six exam rooms, three additional infusion bays, a new pharmacy, two new nursing stations, new physician office space, a radiology and oncology waiting room, and new registration desks in the lobby, outfitted with brand-new furniture.
The video conferencing component is especially significant, since the five-screen conference room allows for daily, disease-specific “tumor boards,” virtual meetings where doctors and specialists from across the region confer on an individual patient’s test results and scans, and brainstorm treatment options together.
“[A patient’s] imaging is reviewed, their pathology is reviewed, [the doctors] discuss a treatment plan and next steps for the patients, it’s a real collaborative experience,” Aldis said. “Then we go back to the patients and present them with what their options are.”
The 45-person nursing and support staff that Aldis oversees are feeling the benefits of the upgrade, too.
“I think, of course, we always want our patients to come first, and patient comfort is our top priority, but having a space where we can all fit and be comfortable and be able to work is very important,” Aldis said.
The heart of the facility is the treatment room, which houses 14 new infusion bays. The chairs for the bays are heated and massaging, nestled in between privacy dividers where patients receiving treatment can look out the bay windows onto the campus, or sit with loved ones. The new nursing station is also outfitted with a revamped pharmacy.
“There’s some new regulations that came out saying that we have to have a positive pressure room and a negative pressure room for the safety of the staff,” said Valerie Bingle, who’s been on the nursing staff at Kishwaukee for 11 years. “The positive pressure room is to make nonchemotherapy, and the negative pressure room is to make chemotherapy.”
Nurses in the infusion center constantly check patients’ height, weight, liver and kidneys before each treatment to make sure the dose of each round is correct. The pressure rooms allow staff to concoct the treatment doses safely.
Aldis said the renovation project also paved the way for new opportunities for patient care the center was previously unable to provide.
“Though we didn’t add any staff with the renovation, we were able to create workspaces for new areas like genetics,” Aldis said. “We used to not be able to offer genetics, because we didn’t have a place for them.” She said the center offers clinical trial treatment options now, too.
“They’re getting a world-class care in their own backyard,” said Jenny Nowatzke, senior specialist of media relations for Northwest Memorial HealthCare.