Courtesy: CallisonRKTL

Medical Design

Look: Clements University Hospital’s New Patient Tower

The $502 million addition includes 650,000 square feet and nearly 300 inpatient beds.

Tower III of William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital has been opening in phases since the end of 2020, and will eventually add 650,000 square feet of space to the more than 1 million square foot hospital. The expansion offers a focus on neurology, brain, spine, and behavioral health services.

For an addition that was underway as the healthcare industry was turned upside down by the pandemic, the facility remains up to date and adaptable to changes brought on by COVID-19. The tower was added and attached to the existing hospital while it continued to function during the pandemic, which was no easy task, according to Jim Henry, a principal and firmwide leader for health and well-being for CallisonRKTL, who designed the building in partnership with Hoefer Welker. Phase one of the hospital’s master plan was completed in 2017, and UTSW broke ground on this tower in 2019 to meet increased demand.

“You have to tear off half the side of the building, and you have to connect it,” Henry says. “How do you do that in a sensible way?” Henry says. “In planning for the expansion, both horizontal and vertical, UT Southwestern showed thoughtfulness and forethought.”

The 12-story, $502 million expansion, which is larger than many hospitals by itself, includes 291 new inpatient beds, bringing the hospital’s total to 751. The tower will also have a psychiatric, acute stroke, and epilepsy monitoring units. There will be 19 neuro operating rooms, neuro-interventional suites, and a 17-room outpatient apheresis unit. The addition expanded the emergency department as well.

The expansion has always been part of the master plan, and the new tower works well with the increased emphasis on patient and guest flow through the hospital to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.”We focused on choreographing the experience and thinking about the patient and visitor experience before they even get to the front door,” Henry says. “You have this light-filled space for patients and their families as they’re navigating to get to their destination. It lowers anxiety and helps with well-being overall with natural light coming in and providing that connection back to nature.”

The hospital worked to balance staff well-being and provide space for heads-down work without being in view of patients and guests, as is often the case in a hospital. The added noise and commotion of hospital staff can also be an obstacle to relaxation and healing. “How do you take that distraction away from the patient to create an environment where they can heal and an optimal working environment for the staff with their heads down?” Henry says. “We always consider visibility, safety, how to reduce noise, and how to positively impact the work environment.”

There is a 23-room behavioral health inpatient unit, including occupational therapy functions, classrooms, and a community room. There is also an outdoor patient garden to provide therapeutic space. During construction, a room was removed that created access to a roof terrace, which was outfitted with murals, landscaping, and shaded areas to escape the Texas heat. The garden is directly accessible to the inpatient unit. “It’s creating outdoor space that’s healthy, safe, and secure with a beautiful, very tranquil garden,” Henry says.

The hospital’s master plan always included the third tower, giving the building a finished appearance upon the latest addition’s completion. “Designing for the end in mind is important,” Henry says. “No one has a crystal ball, but how you think through the plans and forethought provides value to a project that will last 50 or 100 years.”

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