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Patients with mental health emergencies often languish in emergency departments for hours and sometimes days. A scarcity of inpatient psychiatric beds across the country is a significant problem. With the opening of McLean’s new three-floor wing of the Admissions Building in 2016, this insufficient capacity—locally, at least—has been somewhat alleviated.
“The programs in the new wing—the Short-Term Unit and the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Inpatient Program—are still running at 93-95% capacity,” said Linda M. Flaherty, RN, PMHCNS-BC, senior vice president of patient care services. “And, as our President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, would say, ‘there is still an ocean of need out there.’”
Funded by an anonymous $5 million gift, the 21,000-square-foot addition added a total of 31 new inpatient beds to the building—among the hospital’s busiest—as well as office and conference spaces. But the fresh square footage has brought benefits to patients and staff that go far beyond simple capacity. “When you have a bright welcoming space with new furnishings, it fosters an environment that supports respect and dignity,” explained Flaherty. “And the design was very intentional: the improved sight lines allow for staff to engage easily with our patients and families and vice versa.”
Jeanne McElhinney, MS, RN, BC, nurse director of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Inpatient Program, said the reaction from patients and families to the new space has been enormously positive. There are more single rooms now and the common areas are brighter, more comfortable, and more conducive to socializing. “We’re promoting health and recovery and having a beautiful and warm environment to do that in is important,” she said. When she interviews potential new staff members and brings them on tours, they are always impressed with the space and what it says about McLean’s commitment to patient care, she explained.
The new wing has also greatly improved staff collaboration, according to Dost Öngür, MD, PhD, chief of the Center of Excellence in Psychotic Disorders and director of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program. Before, his research and clinical teams were spread out among three sites. “People who do similar work and see similar patients are now all together,” said Dr. Öngür. “Previously, you couldn’t just walk over to a colleague’s office and have a spontaneous conversation. You practically had to make an appointment. Now, these conversations and informal encounters, which can turn into ideas, are common. The new wing has provided a real boost in terms of clinical care and research.”
Built in 1987, the Admissions Building is one of the hospital’s newer buildings. Most of McLean’s buildings date back to the late 1800s when the hospital moved from Charlestown to its current location in Belmont. Another surge of building occurred in the early 1900s with only a few newer facilities erected after World War II. At the time, McLean’s Belmont campus was state-of-the-art. Now, McLean’s best-in-class clinical care, research, and education have outpaced its dated infrastructure.
McLean’s senior leadership and Board of Trustees are united in recognizing the need to modernize the hospital’s physical plant. Substantially renovating the majority of McLean’s patient care spaces is a major component of the current strategic plan as McLean looks to a future when all of the hospital’s facilities—like the new Admissions wing—are ideal for today’s programs and best practices and flexible enough to suit tomorrow’s needs.