A Place that Nurtures


About 80 percent of the maternity cases seen at University of Maryland Medical Center’s labor and delivery unit are high risk. Parents there are often understandably anxious, and for this reason, medical personnel and caregivers take special care to make them feel welcome. This past fall, the hospital opened a new, state-of-the-art 30,000 square foot labor and delivery unit, more than two years in the making.

The new maternity space features advanced equipment and facilities to provide world-class care to new moms and babies. In the unit, there are five recovery beds, five triage beds, 12 labor rooms and three operating rooms.

“We have the unique perspective of getting a lot of people who come in here for not always the greatest reasons why they’re here. So, if the baby’s sick or when there’s a concern before delivery, we know we have a place where baby care and mom care kind of equal in acuity,” says Sarah Crimmins, medical director of the obstetric care unit and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “People who have a scheduled cesarean section for delivery will have the ability to have their private room to get ready, to recover and to have their support person be there as well.”

There is also in-room neonatal care and direct access to Level IV neo-natal intensive care unit, bathtubs for pain management, beds for partners to stay the night, as well as evaluation of the newborn right at the mother’s bedside, so the family is part of the experience, Crimmins adds.

“We have now created a state of the art medical center for completely centered care, so we have the ability for everybody to have their baby with them in the room at all times,” she says. “They can have their family member have a place to be at all times as well, which is great for us and great for families. So we’re trying to make a true family-centered birthplace for everybody.”

The labor and delivery unit features large, broad labor rooms to accommodate both mother and baby, “All rooms are sized so that they are zoned appropriately for three different people with the idea of really being a family-centered space,” Crimmins says. “There is a zone for the mom, zone for family and zone for baby. All rooms have bathrooms equipped with showers that you could labor in for pain management.”

All the rooms also now have lifts and emergency response systems to make transportation and evaluation easier. “We deal with high-risk things every single day that some other hospitals would see once a year, so we have to have those emergency response built in because it’s our standard,” she says.

Work on the unit began more than two years ago, Crimmins adds. “Our prior unit was finished in the eighties, so our prior unit is 30 plus years old,” she says. “We have three times the space that we had now.”

Caryn Zolotorow, nurse and unit manager, says the new facility is filling a critical need. “Not everyone has happy outcomes, and we can help patients and families cope with whatever they are here for, for any reason,” Zolotorow says. “About 80 percent of our patients are high risk, so Johns Hopkins Hospital and ourselves are where patients need to go either for babies that need the intensive care nursery or for moms that need high-risk care.”

A bereavement room was also added to the unit, a first of its kind, according to Zolotorow.

“If the doctors need to talk to patients, they can talk to them in this private space,” she says. “We have a bereavement room because we do have losses. So, we can prepare the baby in here, and family can see them in here. We do molds, handprints and footprints. It’s hard for families and hard for us. But we didn’t have a great space before, so this is wonderful for us to be able to offer that for families.”

Another offering that makes the new unit unique is the more homelike care setting utilizing midwives and emphasizing wellness.

“It’s nice to have a group of midwives so if a mom does want a natural labor and wants to walk around during labor and be on a birthing ball, we have a group of practitioners who will take care of those patients,” she says.

Crimmins says the aesthetics also needed an upgrade. Now, patients will see walls awash in bright blues and yellows. In the architecture and finishing, there are a lot of wings and curving, both in the walls and floors, all meant to soothe and relax patients.

“The idea was for this to be a calming place, so everything here is in the theme of calmness and sereneness,” Crimmins says. “You will see pictures of wind, water and light on the walls in certain areas. On each of the labor room walls, there are pictures of nature scenes to be focusing devices for pushing. Two pictures in every labor room have just a beautiful symmetry of colors.”

The end result is a space the team is very proud of, in part, because so many details have been well planned. “Everybody is very proud and passionate about this place,” Crimmins says. “Everyone wants to make sure this is the best it can be for the people in Maryland and the people in Baltimore.”

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