By Ali Hobbs, Healthcare Analyst

Hearing the phrase “Day in the Life (DITL)” during the activation of a new healthcare space is common, but what does that really mean? The first day of operations isn’t the time to find out something major is missing in the new space. Imagine trying to wheel a patient into your fancy new building only to find the light switch is on the other side of the room? You don’t want to leave your patient to turn on the light switch and now an architectural change must be made. This involves shutting down the space temporarily to make the changes, further costing the hospital time and money, in addition to the time and money originally spent to build the space. Meanwhile, if you had walked through a day in the life with the nurse who would be performing the task, you could have identified this change prior to opening. Although it might have some associated costs to change it, now it would still be less of a headache than if the space were fully operational.  

The DITL planning starts months in advance of the actual opening. All staff being affected by the move are asked to contribute items that “keep them up at night.” Common concerns include “Where will we store these specific supplies?” or “Now that we have such a large waiting space, how will we know where to look for our patients?” By asking various team members, we are given different perspectives that are desperately needed to guarantee all operational processes and space considerations have been addressed prior to Day One operations.

Combing and sifting through all of these “keeps you up at night” items, scenarios can be developed to link items together, so we are hitting multiple items during each scenario. Some services areas will even have the same items they would like to test (i.e., if the blood bank is moving, multiple services areas will wonder how the move will affect their work). Developing those scenarios to include all the different areas allows us to benefit from different viewpoints during the DITL scenario and focus on more items during the DITL event.

The amount of planning surrounding the DITL is significant. Depending on the size of the new space and the services areas being affected by the move, the DITL could involve hundreds of employees, tens of scenarios, and hundreds of items being covered to guarantee efficient and safe Day One operations. The logistics and organization of the DITL are pivotal in engaging the staff participating in the DITL event and in hitting the key items within each scenario. A successful DITL event can provide confidence to the staff that what’s “keeping them up at night” has been considered and solutions have been provided prior to opening. Additional outputs of a successful DITL event include minimizing time and money spent on any architectural or construction changes, minimizing patient safety risks, and increasing awareness of hot button items that will need to be addressed either before the move or in the future. Although a DITL event can be time-consuming to plan and execute, the benefits far outweigh the costs. If the DITL event doesn’t pay for itself by finding an architectural change early on (which it most likely will), the staff’s peace of mind and new familiarity with the space during the DITL event are immeasurable.