Supporting the Tiniest Tots to Teens:St. Joseph’s Hospital-South NICU Expansion & New Pediatrics Unit

Mariel Beesting, NCIDQ, EDAC, LEED Green Associate

Mariel Beesting, NCIDQ, EDAC, LEED Green Associate

Carrie May Kovacs, IIDA, LEED AP

Carrie May Kovacs, IIDA, LEED AP

When BayCare Health System sought to provide improved inpatient and outpatient services to the residents of the growing Hillsborough County region, they called on Gresham Smith to design St. Joseph’s Hospital-South (SJHS) in Riverview, Florida, a suburb of Tampa.

Opened in 2015, the 400,000-square-foot, 90-bed hospital was designed to support hospitality and comfort, evoking the feel of a luxury hotel as opposed to your more traditional medical facility.

In 2018, the hospital identified the need to expand several departments, including the emergency department, where an emphasis was placed on creating a pediatric-friendly environment. The emergency waiting room was expanded to include a dedicated area for children and their families, as well as the renovation of 12 existing exam rooms to be pediatric-centered.

The focus on providing pediatric patient services was further expanded in the creation of a new Pediatric Unit in a two-story expansion of the SJHS patient tower.

Our interior design team for the Pediatric Unit included Hanjoo Kim, Mariel Beesting and myself. Mariel also served as the interior designer for a 10-bed NICU expansion at the hospital. In this post, we take a look at these latest state-of-the-art additions.

A Space for All Age Groups: New Pediatric Unit

As the Pediatric Unit cares for babies, children, and teenagers alike, we took a universal approach to our design, creating a space that all age groups can identify with. We were inspired by color, light, geometry, and whimsical imagery that have broad appeal.

Pictured above in Pediatric ED waiting, an imaginative underwater theme featuring colorful marine life and “fun facts” on acrylic ions offers a pleasant and engaging distraction in this dedicated area for children and family members.

Up, Up & Away!

The new Pediatric Unit includes 12 Private patient rooms, a family lounge, a children’s play area, and a large exam/procedure room with ample space for family members.

Each private patient room was designed to have its own unique identity, with large-format imagery at the entryways, alternating color schemes, and color-changing lights that can be personalized by the patient. The client was extremely involved in our design presentations, and the design solution was stronger as a result of their input.

“We’re excited to be able to offer this level of NICU to the communities of southern Hillsborough, the South Shore and northern Manatee County. The family-centered NICU will provide individualized care and a comforting environment for the whole family,” said Rita Templeton, St. Joseph’s Hospital-South director of patient care services.

Geometry Rules

Fun geometry meets soothing wood tones in this children’s play area, providing a space for welcome respite. The suspended geometric shapes play off those featured in the entry wall of the Pediatric Unit.

These distinctive, large design gestures—all the way down to the smaller features like decorative glass, tile backsplash, and vinyl fabrics—reinforce the overall sense of playfulness in the space.

You Are Here! NICU Expansion

During the original hospital project, the SJHS team identified the need for a new 10-bed NICU, adding almost 10,000 square feet of shelled space adjacent to the Pediatric Unit.

The initial plan was for the NICU to be designed and constructed simultaneously alongside the Pediatrics Unit. However, the project had to be placed on hold. Once the Certificate of Need process requirement was eliminated in the State of Florida, BayCare fast-tracked the start of the NICU project.

The centralized nurse station, as seen above, is the first destination point as you enter the NICU, which provides staff with clear views to the surrounding patient rooms.

Colorful shapes and patterns signal that you have arrived. Similar design aesthetics to that of the Pediatrics Unit were utilized in the space, but with a softer touch. Circles and pastel colors are seen throughout the unit.

As handwashing is mandatory for all visitors before entering the NICU, the design features two handwashing sinks—including a lower sink for siblings—adjacent to the nurse station. Colorful wall tile throughout the unit serves as a visual indicator of the handwashing stations, encouraging frequent handwashing by staff members.

Accentuating Comfort

The NICU expansion comprises 10 private rooms, including one “twins” room and two couplet-care rooms (for both mother and baby) for a total of 11 NICU beds plus two “mom” beds. The couplet-care rooms are a unique service provided in the region.

If a mother requires postpartum care, the couplet-care room features a second headwall and hospital bed specifically designated for mothers so they can remain in the same room while their newborn is receiving care.

Each of the 10 private rooms has a unique identity designated by a “tiny creature” icon visible on the door, such as the “Ladybug Room,” creating a comforting environment.

Other NICU rooms include the “Dragonfly Room” and the “Duckling Room” for twins. Featuring inspiring quotes, artwork within each room continues the comforting tiny creature theme.

Most private rooms feature a sleeper/sofa, allowing family members to stay overnight. A specially designed recliner chair makes it comfortable for both mothers and fathers when holding their new arrival.

Artwork Ties Expansion Together

Complementing the NICU rooms, distinctive artwork featuring local plants, flowers, and grasses, with tiny insects hidden among them, is incorporated throughout the unit. This colorful, cohesive theme helps create a fun and calming environment.

A True Team Effort

Integral to the entire process, our team worked closely with St. Joseph’s Hospital South to deliver unique spaces that support leading-edge NICU and pediatric care, while expanding the hospital’s services and enhancing the overall patient experience.