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PROGRESS 2021: For the patients

After months of waiting, Mayo and its patients are enjoying the new Family Birth Center


It seems like forever, but the new Family Birth Center at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin is running full steam ahead without any kind of construction.

Soaking tubs are included in all rooms, giving mothers an option for pain relief. Photo provided

It’s a day that patients and staff have been looking forward to for a long time.

“We finally have this labor and delivery center,” said Heidi Gaston, DO, who works as a physician in the OB GYN department of Mayo. “It’s meant to be a point of community pride and I think it’s become that. I’m proud of how our staff has come together over the last year and through so many changes.”

Mayo announced plans for the Family Birth Center in 2018 as well as announcing that births in both Austin and Albert Lea would be consolidated under one roof in Austin.

The cost of the project was $11.2 million and from the beginning the goal was to modernize the unit and scale it up through the third floor expansion. The center now has 10 large rooms complete with private bathrooms and therapy tubs as well as space for triage, a c-section suite and newborn nursery.

“Obviously, we were all elated,” said Crystal Studer, nurse manager for the Family Birth Center. “All of our patient rooms are now remodeled and offer the same amenities and space. The flow of the unit is very efficient now because we can access the nurses station on both sides.”

In particular, showers are much bigger and deep soaker tubs allow mothers to find pain relief through natural methods.

“A large tub so when mom is in labor, they can choose to shower or sit in the bathtub,” Studer said. “Being in water is soothing. We have that option. We have more pain control options.”

An added advantage is now staff will also be able to more readily treat both routine and emergency births that arrive by c-section. In years past, the baby would have to be removed from the room because of lack of space.

Now the baby can stay in the same room as its mother.

An example of one of the 10 new patient rooms. The spaciousness of the rooms is evident. Photo provided

“Now we have the capacity to come right to where the baby is,” Gaston said.

The remodel presented challenges because the hospital opted to continue births while construction was ongoing.

This meant the construction was done in phases, shifting each time as one part of the unit was completed. In particular, staff were met with this challenge as they adapted workflow.

“Each phase has taken access away to the nurses station,” Studer said. “We’re essentially a big rectangle with the nurses station in the middle. Now we have access to operating the nurses station and procedure room.”

Gaston was in on the project from the beginning as part of the group that made decisions regarding construction plans. She gained insight to the process that made her appreciate the final project.

“It was actually a really interesting experience,” she said. “We were able to work together with multiple different individuals and areas of the health systems who were going to be impacted by the changes in the facility.”

However, everything was done from the standpoint of patient needs, including that noise being kept to a minimum during construction so mothers could get the needed rest they required before and after procedures.

“The intention was always to keep it going,” Gaston said. “There were a lot of construction meetings happening before it started, right down to how many outlets and where we are going to plug in this specific machine.”

“What does it look like at each stage, where are we going to store things?” she continued. “As we approached those stages of construction it was seamless. Our patients weren’t really perceiving there was a change in construction.”

The bottom line is the update of the Family Birth Center has opened options for both staff and patients, who have expressed joy and wonder at the new facility.

“All of our hospital patients in our labor and delivery unit fill out a survey and we get those surveys back on a weekly basis so we do have the opportunity to hear from our patients,” Gaston said. “Overwhelming, they think it is a beautiful room and loved the space.”

“The nurses love that the construction is done because it was very loud,” Studer said. “Often we felt bad on the loud days for patients trying to rest. The nurses are just thrilled. It’s such a good feeling to be through all of this and see it at the end.”

“We’re super happy for our patients,” Studer added. “This is what we’ve been promising you.”

Family Birth Center by the numbers

• About 5,277 square feet.

• Construction started in July 2019.

Finished spaces include

• Remodeled obstetrics operating room

• Remodeled nursery and procedure room

• Remodeled nurses station

• 10 new labor, delivery and postpartum rooms

• New nourishment room for support person

• In addition, a large equipment room, as well as a supply room, laundry room and soiled utility room have been completed.


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