New inpatient psychiatric unit to open March 24

Front desk of the new BHS unit at UI Hospitals & Clinics

A new inpatient psychiatric unit set to open Wednesday, March 24, at UI Hospitals & Clinics includes a different look and an updated model of care focused on preventing problem behaviors.

Heidi Robinson, RN, director of Behavioral Health Services in the Department of Nursing, says that while construction on the new unit—located on Level 7 of the Roy Carver Pavilion (RCP)—only began two years ago, the entire project has been in the works for nearly a decade.

“This unit kind of symbolizes our change in our model of care for our psychiatric patients,” Robinson says.

One side of the unit will have 13 beds for patients older than 14-years-old in need of treatment for eating disorders. The other side of the unit will be for patients primarily needing treatment for mood disorders. Once the new unit officially opens, patients currently treated for those disorders on Level 1 of the John Pappajohn Pavilion (JPP) will transfer to the new unit on Level 7 of RCP.

In addition to being much larger than the current unit, Robinson says the new unit has calming spaces with big windows and a lot of natural light pouring in, as well as an open nurse’s station to ease communication between staff.

Jodi Tate, MD, vice chair for clinical services in the Department of Psychiatry, says the new setup is similar to the Crisis Stabilization Unit that opened in JPP in 2018.

“I think it’s going to be so important for creating a therapeutic physical environment as well as a culture,” Tate says.

Robinson says the number of staff assigned to the new unit will be higher than the old unit in order to better anticipate and meet the needs of their patients.

Robinson says UI Hospitals & Clinics is implementing a patient care model similar to the one used at the University of Colorado Hospital, which has an entire unit designated for patients with challenging behaviors and intellectual disabilities. One particularly successful feature of the Colorado model, which will be incorporated into the new UI clinic, is the use of behavioral Health Consultants (BHCs) as part of the care team.

“We thought that it would fit really nicely with our new unit,” Robinson says.

The BHCs hired by Robinson and team to work in the new unit have a skill set in multiple therapeutic modalities such as dialectical behavior therapy, applied behavior analysis, and rational behavior therapy, Robinson says.

"I’m really excited about this. I think it’s going to give us a different perspective on our patient care; provide us another angle to sit down, listen, and really help our patients through their crises."

— Heidi Robinson, RN

Robinson says she thinks the specialization of the BHCs will complement the talents of the current nursing staff.

“I feel this new position will allow our nurses and nursing assistants to do the bedside skills that they need to do, psychiatrists will be able to do their rounding and prescribing, and the psychologists will be able to come in and do their assessments and prescribe behavior management,” Robinson says. “The behavioral health consultant will really be able to put all those pieces together and sit down with the patient and talk through some interventions that would help them, as well as relay to staff how they are doing so we can be the best for the patient.”