Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center Expansion Opens in Tacoma, WA

(August 14, 2013) - MultiCare Health System's Mary Bridge Children's Hospital and Health Center in Tacoma, WA, recently opened its new two-floor expansion housing general pediatric beds and the hospital's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). The 52,000-square-foot addition—designed by the Seattle office of HDR Architecture with interior architecture developed in collaboration with Bainbridge of Portland—replaces aging infrastructure and responds to an increasing demand for children's healthcare services in the South Puget Sound region.

"Some of the spaces the hospital was using, such as the PICU, were more than 30 years old and designed to provide a level of care that was once innovative, but is now very outdated," said Peter Damento, senior designer at HDR. "The new expansion transforms the way care is delivered and embraces a team-based approach care model that integrates family members and the latest lifesaving technology. It's a beautiful place for an extremely special patient population."

The new expansion is built atop the Milgard Pavilion, which was constructed in 2010 and houses the MultiCare Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital Emergency Departments and the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center. Seamlessly blending in with the structure below, the expansion's exterior boasts a patterned red brick, metal and glass façade. A new elevator core services the entire seven-story pavilion, and a two-story glass sky bridge connects the expansion to the neighboring Philip Pavilion.

The interior design follows a maritime theme that focuses on the landmarks and life found in and around Washington's South Puget Sound. This theme is seen in all areas of the expansion, from patient footwalls adorned with very stylized illustrations of coastal life to a play area featuring colorful fish shapes dangling from the ceiling, an aquarium teeming with fish, and photographs of sea animals living at Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo.

The interior design theme is most evident in the expansions extensive art program. Inspired by a growing body of research proving that art in healthcare environments can reduce stress and aid in the healing process, the art program makes the space look more like a museum than an actual hospital. The design team worked with an art broker and the client to develop an art program that provided a sophisticated and playful look that would appeal to children and adults of all ages. The works of art, ranging from expansive tiled mural walls to 30-foot-long mixed media paintings and colorful glass installations, were created by local Tacoma artists.

"Though the artwork found in the expansion would be stunning anywhere, its place in a children's hospital is significant," notes Andrea Bainbridge, principal at Bainbridge. "It acts as a positive distraction for children and parents who are enduring high-stress situations, and whose spirits are often low. Even though most patients are restricted to staying inside the building, the artwork—in a way—transports them outside to spaces they know and love."

One of the overarching goals of the design was to create a sense of place for each patient, and each of the 48 rooms was designed following one of eight themes, from starfish and sea lions to orcas, crabs and salmon. "We wanted children to be able to identify with their rooms by saying, 'I'm in the salmon room or the orca room,'" noted Bainbridge. "It also provides excitement for children who visit often—each visit in a new room feels like a new experience."

Each patient room also includes a colored LED lighting panel on the headwall to allow patients to customize their space with color, a family sleeper sofa, and expansive views of Mount Rainier or the city of Tacoma.

Beyond simply aesthetics, subtle design enhancements make a big difference in efficiency and care delivery. Each patient room is acuity adaptable to eliminate transferring patients if acuities change, and features a patient lift hidden within a custom-made cabinet system to decrease staff injury. Each room also includes a staff hand washing sink to decrease the chance of in-hospital acquired infections, nurse server cabinets to bring supplies closer to caregivers and decrease caregiver walking distances, and decentralized nurse stations to allow nursing staff to observe patients without disturbing the healing process.

"On move in day, one of the nurses shared a story about a child who was apprehensive about the multitude of strange faces moving him," added Damento. "But when he walked into the new space, his eyes lit up and he started to sign 'fish, ball, octopus, bird, etc.' Each new feature brought him delight. That's why we—as designers—do what we do. This new expansion is a wonderful, wonderful space."