UIC Nursing feedback used in correctional health facility

Rendering of the nursing station at the Illinois Department of Corrections medical and mental health facility in Joliet. Photo credit: HOK

By Deborah Ziff Soriano

Officials say feedback they gathered at a UIC College of Nursing forum was instrumental in shaping a new, $150 million Illinois Department of Corrections medical and mental health facility in Joliet.

“We accomplished this because of [the] assistance and enthusiasm of the faculty at the UIC College of Nursing,” said John Baldwin, former Illinois Department of Corrections director, who oversaw the project’s design.

The forum, which was held in September 2017, drew more than 100 people to the UIC Nursing Third Floor Event Center, including nursing faculty and administrators and faculty from the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts.

Now, four years later, the hospital is on the cusp of opening, said Jeff Goodale, director of the global justice group at architectural firm HOK, one of two firms to work on the facility.

“The Department of Corrections rightly engaged with the health care community at the UIC Nursing forum in crafting best-practice approaches to this design,” Goodale said. “The new facility is perhaps the best new example of blending the needs of our population in terms of security and therapy.”

Baldwin said the design of the new hospital, which will include 150 mental health beds and 50 medical beds, incorporated comments solicited from the open forum, including: nursing stations that are convenient to patient rooms, strong lighting, atmospheric features like plants and murals, and a separate eating and break area.

“What we heard from a lot of people, nurses included, was, ‘Give us a chance to be successful,’” Baldwin said. “You do that by giving them a good space to work in because working in a mental health facility is tough enough. We heard that, and I think we accomplished that.”

Baldwin adds that the new facility, “doesn’t look like a prison; it looks like a hospital.”

Susan Corbridge, UIC Nursing executive associate dean, said the forum was well-attended by faculty, including faculty from the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, adding that “the nurses in attendance were the most vocal with ideas.”

“We felt it was incredibly important for nurses to have a leading voice in the design of this hospital as they work 24/7 in these facilities, while other providers may come and go throughout the day,” she said.

Corbridge said the college has a strong history with correctional health and is committed to the health and well-being of incarcerated individuals.

This includes a $500,000 contract to conduct a quality improvement plan for the Illinois Department of Corrections and health education rotations for students at the Cook County Jail and in the “moms and babies” unit of Decatur Correctional Facility. The UIC Nursing-managed clinic at Humboldt Park also offers telehealth care for individuals at two adult transition centers and a faculty member is on site twice a week at the Crossroads Adult Transition Center.

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