Lauren Kromminga was visiting a hospitalized co-worker several years ago at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital when she looked out the window and noted it was definitely not a room with a view.
“Outside her window was a bare roof and a brick wall,” recalled Kromminga. “I thought this is probably not helping her healing. I felt like there was room for improvement to make the patient experience better.”
At the time, Kromminga was working as a patient care tech at St. Luke’s and going to nursing school. In 2020 she graduated and started working as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at St. Luke’s. As a new graduate Kromminga participated in the hospital’s nurse residency program, which encourages residents to come up with an idea on something that could be improved at the hospital.
“I decided a hospital beautification project was what I wanted to focus on and connected with team members at St. Luke’s to put my ideas into motion,” said Kromminga. “I started doing research. I looked for legitimate peer-reviewed journal research on what having greenery or nature scenes would do for the patient’s recovery. It all pointed to improved pain tolerance, reduced anxiety and in some cases, a decreased length of stay for surgical patients by over half a day.”
Kromminga said her findings also suggested the enhanced views would help healthcare workers as well.
“Research suggested the upgraded sights improved staff satisfaction, productivity and even resulted in fewer absences when they had green views out their windows,” shared Kromminga. “I was really excited about these findings and shared them with the rest of the team at St. Luke’s.”
Kromminga received the green light to pursue the hospital’s first improvement project, which was an air handler unit on St. Luke’s roof top facing the dialysis unit. It needed a fresh coat of paint, but the team thought it would be a great place for a beautification project instead.
“I reached out to Iowa BIG to see if the students would want to be part of our project,” explained Kromminga. “I asked if they had students who would like to design something for this air handler unit. They were excited about the project, and I worked with five students over several months to come up with an image to place on the air handler unit.”
Iowa BIG is collaborative public school high school program in Cedar Rapids, which allows students to expand learning outside of the traditional classroom for part of their day working on community-based projects.
“The students wanted to create something that could be calming and give a view of nature for patients, while also representing Iowa,” explained Dennis Becker, Iowa BIG teacher. “It was a challenge for them but ultimately they were able to work with Lauren to come up with a design they were thankful for.”
“This is a rewarding project,” said Kromminga. “I’m really happy to be improving the patient experience at St. Luke’s.”
The final design is an Iowa landscape, which was printed on seven large pieces of adhesive vinyl and recently installed at St. Luke’s. Kromminga said this is the first installment in an overall broader long-term vision. She said there are plans to pursue an artistic mural next and possibly a roof top garden.