Constructing a different kind of job description:
Constructing a different kind of job description: Nursing Director Colleen Connelly is used to managing patient care. Now she also manages two major construction projects for the hospital

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Nursing Innovations

10. Let nurses step outside of traditional roles.

Nursing Director Colleen Connelly didn’t know anything about construction when she started the multimillion dollar build-outs of our Intensive Care and Burn units. But here’s what she did know: She knew what nurses needed to do great work. She knew what patients and families needed to feel comfortable and happy. And she knew how to find the best talent to get just about any job done. “Colleen is one of the most capable people I’ve ever met,” says Margaret Pearce, our CNO. “She’s got the kind of no-nonsense personality that can handle anything.”

From bedside nurse to jobsite manager.

Like her colleague Jeremy Fotheringham (see Idea #9), Colleen has been given a unique leadership opportunity that’s highly uncommon for nurses—and yet perfectly suited to her expertise. “I started at University of Utah Health Care as a staff nurse,” she says. “And as nurses, we know what’s going to work or not work for a unit’s physical space. We understand the flow. After all, we’ve lived it.” Combine this practical nursing experience with a collaborative, can-do attitude, and you’ve got the perfect person to lead two major construction projects for the hospital.

“I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world,” says Colleen. “Our organization has given me, and so many other nurses, really exciting opportunities. They’re not afraid to hire from within and train people. And by allowing nurses to step outside of their traditional roles, they’ve helped us to grow.”

“I thought getting approval was a long shot. But I was wrong. Hospital administration liked my idea and trusted me to get it done right.”
—Colleen Connelly, Nursing Director

Tearing down walls.

Taking on a massive construction project isn’t for the faint of heart. And securing funding for the ICU buildout was the first major challenge. Although the proposal had been put forward multiple times and the need for a new space was painfully obvious, the project had always been turned down. “I decided to find out exactly why it had been declined in the past, and I built a new proposal that removed those barriers,” says Colleen. The biggest barrier turned out to be the request to spend $20 million in a single fiscal year. So Colleen proposed spreading it out over four years—and the ICU build-out was finally approved.

On time, on budget.

By seeking out the best possible pricing for construction materials and leveraging legacy equipment from the existing unit where possible, Colleen is expected to finish the ICU build-out on time, with a 33% contingency.

What’s more, by working closely and consistently with ICU staff and involving them in every decision, the real savings are most likely to come at the very end of the project, because costly, last-minute changes—the kind that arise all too often due to lack of communication—will have been avoided.

Building the dream.

The old medical ICU had only a single bathroom for 12 beds. Its rooms were too small for family visits, and there was barely enough space for nurses to manage the equipment and patients. Our new ICU, under Colleen’s leadership, changes all that. Patient rooms boast picturesque windows, more square footage, and pullout beds for family members. Nursing areas are wide open, so that staff can see each other and communicate problems quickly. Equipment rooms are centralized for easy accessibility.