LAFAYETTE — Walking into the lobby of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, one may easily forget that it’s a hospital.
“We wanted to take the intimidation out of walking into a hospital,” said Elisabeth Arnold, Lourdes’ community relations director.
While the new $211 million, six-story facility contains state-of-the-art technology and streamlined patient services, the site also promises a different patient experience that honors the traditions of its founders, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady.
Lourdes will make the official transition from its St. Landry Street campus to its new 45-acre site on June 25.
But make no mistake — there is no “new Lourdes,” noted Sister Eileen Rowe, Order of St. Francis, who heads up the hospital’s advocacy efforts.
“We may be moving to a new facility, but we’re building and enhancing the foundation that was already here,” Rowe said.
That foundation was first laid in Lafayette in 1949 when the religious order founded Our Lady of Lourdes. It is one of five hospitals in the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, which also includes Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge.
The new site — with vast employee input — was built with patients and their families in mind.
Natural light permeates the hospital through large windows in patient rooms and viewpoints throughout the hospital. Outdoor balconies are located on each patient floor and a rooftop garden is also part of the design.
Sunlight filters down into the lobby from the three-story-high atrium. Against a wall to the left, a fountain trickles water down a 27-foot etched glass image of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Off the lobby, a set of doors provide entrance to the heart of the hospital’s mission of healing — its chapel.
Inside, stained-glass windows depict the Holy Family and the compassion of St. Francis of Assisi.
More symbolism from St. Francis’ exaltation of nature — the Canticle of the Sun — is displayed in the landscape with different-colored flowers to represent the sun, wind, fire and water.
Outdoor fountains and ponds and a prayer labyrinth all seek to foster a healing environment.
Employees raised more than $300,000 to construct the prayer labyrinth. Prayer rooms are also located on each floor.
But more powerful than the spiritual symbolism evident in the landscape and within the hospital are the people who embody the hospital’s mission of compassion and healing, Rowe said.
“It’s not about things,” Rowe said. “It’s about being that person to the people who are sick.”
When people walk into the hospital, “we want them to have an experience of healing,” said Sister Betty Lyons, Order of St. Francis and the hospital’s vice president of missions and community service.
The healing mission of Christ and saints such as Francis is “lived in the people here,” Rowe said of Lourdes’ employees.
“I think patients are going to have such a totally different experience than they’ve ever had in a hospital,” said Tammy DeRouen, a Lourdes nursing supervisor who led the transition of clinical services during the planning and moving process. “The mind is just as powerful with healing.”
The layout of the hospital is also easy to navigate for patients and visitors. An information desk is directly in front of the entrance. Elevators are easily accessible. Patients checking in for procedures — whether imaging, lab or surgery — and their families will have one checkpoint: the second-floor procedural platform desk.
Employees were empowered to answer the question: If they could build a hospital from the ground up, what would it look like?
The design is centered on the patient, DeRouen said.
While patient rooms are 30 percent larger in the new hospital, there are other amenities that bring the “comforts of home” to the hospital.
Or in one case, the “comforts of hotel” to the hospital — there’s room service.
With the “At Your Request” meal service, a patient can dial a number to consult with a dietitian to select a menu option that whets his appetite and is delivered when he wants it.
“As a patient, how would that make you feel, if you were sick?” DeRouen asked. “Just to have a different patient experience and customer focus makes a difference.”
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