In October 1957, the Rochester Methodist Hospital was preparing for occupancy in its new 12-bed constant observation unit, the “circle hospital” which was built to the rear of the main building and connected to the hospital proper on second floor.
More than three years of study and planning preceded construction of the unit. Hospital administrator, Harold C. Mickey, looked on the project as “a unique opportunity to test a new approach to patient care that might affect hospital construction before we proceed with a building program.”
Prior to building the unit, Mayo Clinic conducted preliminary studies, which included a survey of patients in all hospitals serving Clinic patients, and several detailed studies of the care of the seriously ill patient.
These studies, said Mickey, “gave us some answers in regard to space and equipment needed to enable nursing personnel to work at peak efficiency. When we asked ‘what is the key need of the nurse in caring for a group of seriously ill patients,’ the answer seemed to be ‘the ability to see all of the patients in the unit all the time.’”
These answers were incorporated in plans for the 12-bed unit. The patients’ rooms were placed in a circle with the nurses station in the center. Through the glassed upper half of the doors to the rooms a nurse at her station could see every patient in the unit.
The new circle unit was built to help answer two problems which plague hospitals and patients alike: the spiraling cost of hospital care and the shortage of nursing personnel.
“What we are trying to do,” said Mickey, “is to learn how to provide the patient with the best possible care at the lowest possible cost. This means we must find the most efficient way in which to utilize space, equipment and nursing services."
“We aren’t forgetting, of course, that ‘best possible’ patient care involves more than economics. The human quality of kindliness in the care of the sick will always be the primary need in any hospital.”