Janice Heerspink donned a hard hat and strolled through the new Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center.

She smiled at the light-filled halls, spacious rooms and large gathering areas. And she felt pride of ownership.

As a member of the Continuing Care Patient and Family Advisory Council, she helped plan the details that would make the building a welcoming place for residents and their loved ones.

“This is fabulous,” Heerspink said.

The warm and inviting space is a far cry from the building it replaces, the one where her husband, John, spent 77 days as he recovered from a hemorrhagic stroke.

“It’s like night and day. Day and night,” she said.

Heerspink wasn’t alone in her response. She recently toured the new Rehab and Nursing Center with the entire Patient and Family Advisory Council. The members got a sneak peek at the Grand Rapids, Michigan, building, which will open after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 11.

Dust from construction still coated the floor, but the members could see the ways their suggestions were incorporated into the building’s design. They admired the courtyard and rooftop gardens and the large windows that offered views for patients in wheelchairs.

The input of former residents and their family members is crucial, said Deb Sprague, the patient experience specialist who works with the advisory council. Hospital staff sought their suggestions and feedback beginning with the early phases of design.

“Throughout Spectrum Health, we are taking the voices of our patients and integrating them into how we provide care,” she said. “By seeking the input from the councils early in the development process and throughout our key decision-making points, we are creating a facility that will truly meet their needs.

“Council members not only provided input on the facility, but on how care is going to be provided in the facility.”

The $24.5 million two-story building, at 4118 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, will provide space for 165 patients. The first floor encompasses 77 beds for patients receiving short-term rehabilitation services. The second floor includes 88 beds for patients receiving long-term care.

Each floor is divided into four households that have a shared dining and common area that includes a fireplace.

“It serves the same number of residents but has twice the square footage,” said Chad Tuttle, NHA, MBA, president of Spectrum Health Continuing Care.

The renovation project, designed by MKM Architecture and built by The Christman Company, includes a fully equipped rehabilitation gym, private treatment rooms and a low-stimulation gym for patients with neurological conditions.

The 122,600-square-foot building was constructed next to the current facility, built in 1964. After patients move in mid-August, most of the old building will be demolished.

Windows for all

The space and privacy available in the new building impressed Heerspink as she toured it.

Many of the rehab rooms are private. And even those with space for two patients are designed to maximize natural light and privacy.

In a typical two-patient room, only one bed is placed next to a window. When the privacy curtain is drawn between the beds, the patient farthest from the window can’t see outside.

But these new rooms include two windows, with a partial wall in between. A bed is placed on either side of the wall.

The ability for both patients to see outside will make a big difference, Heerspink said.

“I think you heal faster,” she added.

The bigger rooms will also provide more space for a patient’s wheelchair and walker, as well as more room for visitors, Heerspink said.

Better call buttons

Marion Harwood, a former patient at the Rehab and Nursing Center, said she liked the improved call system.

She spent four weeks at the center in 2011―as part of an eight-month recovery from severe injuries she suffered in a car accident. She often pushed the call button for her roommate, who was unable to communicate.

The new system includes a variety of call button options for those with limited mobility―such as touchpads and sip-and-puff devices.

The calls go directly to phones carried by the nurses. Different colored lights outside the patients’ doors signal the type of help needed.

“I think it will be better for the patients,” Harwood said.

Getting ready to move

The staff will undergo extensive training to become familiar with the equipment and space before the move to the new building. Staff members are excited about the new space, said Deborah Cress, MSN, RN, the chief nursing officer of Spectrum Health Continuing Care.

“We finally will have the caliber of building that will match the caliber of the staff in that building,” she said.