JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Franklin Woods Community Hospital opened its doors to the public early Monday morning as the first new hospital built in Washington County in three decades and the first "green" hospital in the state.
"Things have gone very smoothly this morning," said David Nicely, the hospital's CEO and a vice president with Mountain States Health Alliance, the hospital's parent company. "We had our first patient in the emergency department at 5:45 a.m. and people arriving for their surgeries by 5:30 a.m."
With his Buzz Lightyear pajamas and eager smile, 6-year-old Isaac Cutshall walked into Franklin Woods early this morning as the first surgery patient at the region's newest hospital.
"We didn't really plan for this, it just kind of happened," said Heather Cutshall, the boy's mother. "The building here is really beautiful. It's a soothing place."
Margaret and Chris Townson of Johnson City were the first parents to have children at Franklin Woods - that's right: children. The couple had twin boys, Logan and Caden, both weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces.
"Everyone at the hospital has been really nice," she said. "The rooms are really big and we are able to bring our family in here with us."
While the official ribbon-cutting for the hospital was held in June, hospital staff have used the last two weeks to make final preparations for the patients they are now seeing. "Day-in-the-Life" scenarios have been taking place this month where test patients are run through the hospital's system in an effort to discover any glitches.
"We've had people come in as if they were suffering from chest pains and also people acting as if they were going into labor," said Franklin Woods Chief Nursing Officer Rhonda Mann. "We've used this to test all the different systems in the building."
FWCH has been built to the standards of the U.S Green Building Council and Nicely said they have applied for LEED certification, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED works on a points system, and there are six different areas where a facility can receive points, including areas such as design, materials and resources, water efficiency and sustainable sites.
"The more points you receive determines what level of LEED certification you receive. Most healthcare facilities in the country have received general LEED certification, but for Franklin Woods, we've aimed higher and expect to receive at least a Silver certification by September," Nicely said.
Just driving into the parking lot at FWCH shows how health care is changing. The area outside the hospital feels like a park with water features, gardens and lots of green space. There is parking near the front doors specifically for low-emission vehicles such as hybrid cars, and even spaces with electrical outlets for physicians using golf carts to come from neighboring offices inside Med Tech Park.
In the building the lobby has large glass walls, wood beams and trees growing indoors. When describing the facility, hospital staff often use words like "resort" or "spa." Gone are the days of bleached white ceramic floors. These floors are made of cork.
"There's a reason hospitals are changing how they bring care to their patients," Nicely said. "Clinical studies have shown that a patient's surroundings have a real impact on how well they heal. When they are in a place with plenty of natural light, a calming environment and an verall healthy feel, patients keep a positive attitude and actually leave the hospital sooner in better condition."
And it's not just the patients. Nicely said human resource studies also have shown that employees work better and stay happier in their positions when in the same environments that prove so beneficial to patients.
"It really shouldn't come as a surprise that people prefer to work and heal in beautiful environments. Hospitals have been taking a lot of cues from the hospitality industry in recent years, and I think you'll see that trend continue," Nicely said. "Cafeterias are being replaced with bistros and cafés. All our rooms are private and waiting rooms are now reception areas with comfortable chairs and couches."
Hospital officials also said they are putting a real emphasis on wellness. There is no tobacco use allowed anywhere on the property. There are walking paths that lead around Med Tech Park, including over to the neighboring Wellness Center. The back of the hospital is a dense forest that Nicely said the hospital plans to leave untouched. Around the edges of the facility are healing gardens filled with benches, picnic tables and water features. Even the products used to build the hospital are healthier than average.
"Franklin Woods is expected to be the first hospital in Tennessee to be federally certified as a 'green' facility. This goes well beyond just recycling. It has to do with how we handle waste and storm water runoff, how much passive solar energy is used and how safe the products are that we used to build the hospital," Nicely said. "When you walk into Franklin Woods, it doesn't have that 'new' smell, because that smell comes from chemicals being emitted from paint and other finishes that are not produced with the health impacts in mind. Those are the types of products we avoided when constructing Franklin Woods."