Designers took away valuable insight after observing Mayo Clinic nurses train in a virtual simulation of a new facility.

Image courtesy of Mayo Clinic Health System

Mayo Clinic Health System’s new hospital in La Crosse, Wis., has a planned completion date of late 2024, and the finished product will reflect suggestions from various stakeholders, thanks to some advanced technology.

Mayo used virtual reality (VR) training to gather feedback from nurses and will use their feedback to make necessary adjustments to endoscopy suites, birthing rooms, medical-surgical and inpatient rooms. 

Nurses, physicians, hospital staff, environmental services technicians and security collaborated on the design of the rooms. Physical room layouts allowed participants to experience a lifelike reproduction. Those wearing headsets enacted a typical scenario, while onlookers suggested improvements while viewing the reenactment on an overhead screen.

Details that can easily be overlooked in traditional training are front and center in a simulated real-life experience. For example, nurses noted that patient comfort requirements, including outlets for cellphones, hair dryers and shower hooks, must be included.

Karen Finneman Killinger, regional chair of facilities at Mayo Clinic Health System, explains that wearing the headsets created a heightened experience. “At one time, I had to remind myself that I was standing in place; I was not actually on top of the table!” she says. She warned that the experience can be a little disconcerting, requiring a minute or two to adjust and feel grounded.

The design project was initiated in 2019, halted in 2020 and re-initiated in 2022. One of the benefits of the downtime was revisiting room design. 

For example, relocating birthing rooms to the top floor created the opportunity to capture nature’s beauty and natural light from the large windows. In addition, new employees hired after 2019 were exposed to the concept for the first time, creating excitement. The newly formed teams look forward to the health system’s opening in 2024.

Once completed, the six-floor, 70-bed facility will include a surgical and procedural floor integrated with the current operating rooms, pre- and post-surgery recovery rooms, shell space for future growth and more.