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Kentucky Children’s Hospital at the University of Kentucky HealthCare, Lexington, KY

November 2016
EDAC Advocate Firm Project
Pod Corridor, HGA, Digital

HGA Architects and Engineers with Smith Hager Bajo, Inc.

Firm's role on the project:  Planning, Programming, Architecture, Design, Interiors


EBD Goal 

To transform the University of Kentucky’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit from a ward setting into a single family room unit that promotes familycentered care. This transformation requires careful consideration of staff and family’s needs and desires.


The 44,000 square-foot NICU renovation at Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH) at the University of Kentucky HealthCare includes 70 beds relocated to the first floor of the hospital. The NICU provides a full spectrum of care for critically-ill, premature, moderately ill and convalescing infants.


To address how the designed environment influences the delivery of quality care, a systematic approach to collect pre-occupancy quantitative and qualitative information that represents the "voice of the customer" (VOC) was devised.

First, the team developed and customized questionnaires for both family and staff members of KCH to understand the level of satisfaction with various characteristics related to unit layout and patient spaces. The data was analyzed to identify significant predictor variables and common themes. For example, predictor variables for staff satisfaction included noise level, electric light, the amount of work surface area and availability of workstations.

Next, semi-structured focus groups were conducted. The topics were directed by significant questionnaire findings. Focus group members were: parents of previous NICU patients, NICU staff, and current parents of patients.

Information from the questionnaires and focus groups were utilized to create a customized design criterion of "needs" and "wants" that truly represents the VOC. Although not necessarily exclusive, the criterion did capture important design qualities that were found significant by users of the space. This criterion was combined with project goals and objectives, presented to the design team and used to evaluate prototypes and design concepts.


The new 70-bed NICU at Kentucky Children’s Hospital has six pods of approximately 12 single family rooms in each. The pods create identifiable care communities among staff and families within the larger unit, a key VOC finding. A dedicated team huddle space to foster collaboration, along with immediate access to supplies, medications and infant milk storage to increase efficiency are found within each care community.

Visibility, safety and security were other VOC needs expressed by families. Single family rooms are visible by multiple nurses within the care community from decentralized nursing stations positioned between the sliding glass doors of two rooms. Caregivers also have access to bedside charting and local supplies within the rooms. The family zone, per the request of the families, will have spaces for personal storage and rooming-in capabilities.

To build a sense of community and support for staff and families, both staff and family lounges are centrally located on the unit and serve as a private place to decompress while remaining close to patients. To promote a calm ambiance, all circulation corridors are lit with natural and soothing lighting.


Completion is scheduled for fall 2017. To ensure that design solutions achieve success and reflect the VOC, similar research tools used during pre-design will be implemented approximately six months post-occupancy to confirm if significant differences have occurred.


While The Center believes that the information in this resource is valid, it has not fact-checked the information or tested any findings. The Center disclaims any warranties, expressed or implied, regarding this content.