DeKALB – For Kristen Tindall, not only are no two days alike, things can change in a minute at her job.
Tindall is the manager of the emergency department at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital.
Phase 1 of the hospital’s emergency department reconstruction opened last month allowing its staff better flow throughout the department and updating patient rooms.
Phase 1 is the most visible portion of the renovation for the public and includes the main entrance, the waiting room, testing bays and fast-track rooms.
The $12 million renovation project began in April. The project is scheduled to take place in three phases over 16 months to allow optimal emergency department operations during construction.
Tindall spoke with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about her role as manager of the emergency department and the renovation.
Milton: What do you do in your role as manager of the emergency department?
Tindall: I do the hiring, staffing, oversee the operations, process improvement projects, oversee quality patient safety, staff and patient engagement and have worked a lot with the construction project.
Milton: Describe what the emergency department was like before the renovation.
Tindall: It was an older department that opened in 2008. Healthcare has changed, and we’ve seen a lot of patients in that space. It’s time not only for a facelift, but as we see increased volume of patients, it is also an opportunity to improve efficiency and upgrade medical equipment.
Milton: What is some of the upgraded medical equipment?
Tindall: We have new GE cardiac monitors that allow us more customizations to improve monitoring of heart rhythms throughout the [emergency department]. We will have big displays of those rhythms to see those from more locations throughout the ER, more than what we previously could.
Milton: What is an improvement you’d like to highlight?
Tindall: Another highlight is in our behavioral health rooms. The rooms have access doors, almost like garage doors, that we can raise and lower. All of our medical equipment is behind those doors for safety.
Milton: Are the behavioral health rooms a new addition?
Tindall: We’ve had behavioral health rooms, but they didn’t have anything in them. If we needed to do vital signs, we had to bring machines in. If we needed a computer, we needed to bring it in. Now we’re able to have everything in the room. It’s just a matter of raising and lowering the garage doors, which is very simple.
Milton: What has changed in the emergency department since 2008?
Tindall: The biggest change is technology. The cardiac monitors have customizations that have developed over time. We also have new trauma carts, and so when we have a patient, getting X-rays will be easier in bed. We have increased volumes and surges of patients throughout the years. When we redesigned the ER, we made our spaces very versatile that can take care of any type of patient.
Milton: What is an example of that versatility?
Tindall: During surges and large influxes of patients, there are sometimes patients that we do have to take care of in the hallway. We will now have emergency equipment behind paintings so we can take care of patients when rooms are full.
Milton: What is it like working in an emergency department?
Tindall: The No. 1 thing is that it’s an unpredictable environment. Not only are no two days alike, things can change in a minute. You might have a slower day, and then you have an inbound from EMS that five patients are coming in from an accident. You have to switch gears quickly and be prepared for the unknown.
Milton: What are some difficulties of working in an emergency department?
Tindall: Nurses have to go from one room with a child with abdominal pain and then go right into another patient’s room that is grieving because a loved one is dying. They have to be able to make that shift, from cheerful and calming a child to helping an adult going through a very difficult time. We also have to be making sure we keep our patients informed of expectations. We do this every day, but for patients and visitors, it’s often the worst day of their lives. We have to make sure we do a good job of explaining everything so they know what their ER visit is going to be like.
Milton: What do the other two renovation phases include?
Tindall: Phase 1 is done and it’s beautiful. We are still under construction. We still will have loud noises at times, still some containment walls that will be up and we will be using alternate spaces to take care of patients. The total renovation process is estimated to be complete August or September 2022. The second phase will take six months and the third phase four months. The renovation will improve flow through the ER. There will be natural lighting, windows, comfortable chairs, which all lead to a good healing environment.