When Jacqueline Staples broke her wrist after tripping on the sidewalk in 2019, she never imagined a visit to St. Paul’s Hospital would uncover another health issue: an irregular heart rhythm called premature ventricular contractions.
“I got put on all kinds of medication, and after I complained to my cardiologist that I hated walking now because I didn’t feel steady, he said: ‘I have the perfect thing for you,’” recalls Jacqueline. “He sent me to cardiac rehab at the hospital – that was life changing.”
Jacqueline participated in the Healthy Heart cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Paul’s Hospital for six months where she regularly met with a team of clinical exercise physiologists and nurses. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, her rehab sessions went virtual. Jacqueline credits the continuous care from the team for helping her recover and build up endurance. And her experience motivated her to become a patient partner for the new St. Paul’s Hospital and Health Campus Project.
“The cardiac team was looking for a patient with in-person and virtual experience to provide feedback for the rehab space in the new hospital,” says Jacqueline. “The staff and the program changed my life so I was happy to give back. It’s been such a great experience.”
Patient experiences enhance design
The new St. Paul’s Hospital is designed with patients at the forefront, and that has meant consultations with a broad range of stakeholders – especially with the patients themselves. From sharing their health care experiences to providing feedback on floorplans, patient partners provide valuable insights to the project team.
“Patients experience the health care system in a different way than we do as designers and clinicians,” explains Craig Harris, a senior project and change management lead for the New St. Paul’s Hospital and Health Campus Project. “They may notice small things on a floorplan that could really enhance the overall patient experience so it’s crucial we look at ways to incorporate their feedback.”
Jacqueline has worked with the project team for the past 18 months to ensure the rehab space on the second floor of the new hospital meets the needs of future patients. For example, the reception and waiting area layout has now been improved to allow better flow, ensuring patients in wheelchairs and scooters can move around easily. Already, Jacqueline feels like she’s contributed in a meaningful way.
“One of the things we noticed when we first saw the plan was that the entrance into the area wasn’t straight – it meandered. I told them don’t do that. You need to have an open room for the exercise physiologist to do rehab because they need space. They took all our comments quite genuinely.”
The project team also carved out a more defined “patient zone” by moving washrooms and locker rooms closer to the reception and waiting area. And the Cardiovascular Gym is now the closest gym to the reception area, which means the majority of patients won’t have to venture far to attend their rehab sessions.
An improved rehab centre
The project team has taken rounds of patient feedback and incorporated them into the design of the rehab floor of the new St. Paul’s Hospital. A balcony and therapy garden are just some of the additions future patients will find. But most importantly? The rehab services will all be housed on the same floor.
“The fact everybody will all be on one level will give the rehab team the opportunity to handle more people at once,” says Jacqueline. “Perhaps they can have cardio and weight training happening at the same time and patients can move between the different exercise stations better.”
While Jacqueline has now graduated from the Healthy Heart rehab program, she already plans on returning to the rehab centre in the new hospital – but only as a visitor.
“Hopefully, I won’t be in rehab again but I’d love to see the hospital once it’s built. It would be nice to see the space and how it all panned out.”
Learn more about the project and engagement for the new St. Paul’s Hospital by visiting the website.
Story by: Justine Ma, New St. Paul’s Hospital Project