Building a Better Cardiac Care Unit

Patient care – it’s what we do. It’s what we care most deeply about. And, of course, it was the impetus for building our new, 23-story, state of the art facility.

Many of the improvements we’ve made, in an effort to improve patient care, are tangible – private patient rooms, creative spaces, proximity to our partners at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. However, we mustn’t overlook the less glamorous, yet equally important changes to our operational structure. While not readily visible or flashy, our new space has allowed us to fundamentally change the way we deliver patient care.

Perhaps the best example of this can be found in our Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit.

Because of the space limitations in our old hospital, cardiac patients were located on several different units depending on the stage of treatment they were in. As a result, a patient would have a whole new care team at each step of the way. In planning for Lurie Children’s, the decision was made to increase continuity of care and pull this patient population into a more specialized unit –focusing strictly on cardiac conditions.

The result is the 36-bed Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), where cardiology and cardiovascular surgery patients stay in one place, from admission to discharge. It is one of the few pediatric units of its kind in the nation, providing the expertise, technology and comprehensive resources to treat a broad range of complex heart conditions from infancy through young adulthood.

“The patients don’t have to get to know new nurses, new providers,“ says Genevieve Frey, manager of patient care operations in the CCU. “They get to know these people and build a trusting relationship. And not only that, but the nurses and providers, become so familiar with the patients…they know what their whole journey has looked like. This intimate knowledge of the patients and families helps us serve them that much better.”

Not only that, but the new space is making the staff stronger as well.

“The relationship between nurses and doctors is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” says Frey. “The partnership is so strong — there’s no line between the two groups. We see each other as teammates. It’s been amazing and very professionally satisfying to work in an environment that’s so collaborative.”

“The experience has been exciting,” adds Frey. “Because we didn’t just pick a unit up and move it over from Children’s Memorial to Lurie Children’s. We built something theoretical and made it a reality. The CCU was just a concept. The nurses who have joined us believed in the mission and vision of the unit. They are dedicated to cardiac nursing and they believe that this model is the most supportive to our patients. They have been incredible.”

The CCU boasts the most advanced technology available, including:

  • 24-hour heart rhythm monitoring for arrhythmias via a central monitoring station.
  • Patient monitoring from anywhere in the hospital and remote sites, including physician’s homes.
  • Near infra-red spectroscopy (NIRS), a non-invasive technology that will allow us to monitor oxygen supply to all parts of the child’s body.
  • ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenator), an external cardiac and respiratory support device, and the Berlin Heart, a small external artificial heart, for patients in cardiac arrest.
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