Creating an Inviting Work Environment at UHealth Coral Gables

Todd Smaka, M.D., is looking forward to the opening of UHealth Coral Gables in The Lennar Foundation Medical Center.

“This new facility will be a great place to work,” said Smaka, a board-certified anesthesiologist who will practice in the state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center opening later this year on the Coral Gables campus. “It will help create a highly collaborative environment for delivering excellent patient care.”

Suggestions from UHealth physicians and staff members played an important role in the design of the five-story diagnostic and treatment center, according to Ben Riestra, chief administrative officer.

“We believe that improving the patient experience begins with improving the employee experience, and we have listened carefully to the needs of our clinical care teams,” he said.

For example, the traditional physician and staff lounges have been combined into one break room with large windows, couches, tables and other amenities.

“Our clinical teams operate in an intense work environment, so it’s very important to have a relaxing break room where we can recharge our batteries and see the sunlight,” said Smaka, who is associate professor of clinical anesthesiology, Associate Chief of Anesthesiology at University of Miami Hospital, and Associate Chief Patient Safety and Quality Officer for UHealth-the University of Miami Health System.

Designing a warm and welcoming break room also strengthens the collaborative ties among all members of patient care teams, Smaka added.

“We want everyone at the new center to feel valued and know that their contributions matter,” he said. “For instance, our surgeons can’t do their job unless someone has cleaned and sterilized the operating room during the turnover period between procedures. And everyone needs scrubs that look nice, are comfortable and well-mended.”

Other staff-oriented features of the new facility include an outdoor scenic garden on the third floor, limited to physicians and employees, and an open-air rooftop garden that’s also open to patients and family members.

“We are implementing a Lean Six Sigma management approach that promotes ‘Joy in Work,’ giving our staff the right tools to continuously improve processes,” Riestra said. “Work flow is also a top priority.”

Eventually, about 300 UHealth physicians and staff members will work in the new center, said Riestra. Some will be based at the Gables center, while others will serve patients on the medical campus as well. UM now offers a shuttle bus service connecting the medical, marine sciences and Gables campuses. In addition, the new Lennar Center is just a few steps away from the Metrorail University Station, so staffers could ride to and from the Civic Center Station serving the medical campus.

UHealth Coral Gables in The Lennar Foundation Medical Center is a five-story, 206,000-square-foot diagnostic and treatment center located at Ponce de Leon and Dickinson just south of the BankUnited Center. In addition to outpatient surgery services, the new center will be home to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, UHealth Sports and Performance Institute, and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute satellite locations, as well as medical offices, a healthy cafe, free parking and a host of patient- and family-friendly amenities. While the facility can provide care and 23-hour observation as needed, it will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for patients and families.

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