Pass-through cupboards will reduce time staff spend searching for supplies in new Moose Jaw hospital


I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields . . .

I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls . . .

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
– U2

When it comes to searching for supplies as part of their daily tasks, many staff are able to relate to the famous U2 lyrics as it often feel like they are climbing mountains or scaling city walls in their quest to find what they are looking for.

In our current hospital, valuable time is spent each day hunting down needed supplies. Good work has been ongoing to combat this issue, but improvements are limited by the physical space of our building. However, the intentional design of the new regional hospital offers hope. Motivating this change is the idea that having what is needed, when it’s needed, with minimum time spent searching is actually achievable.

Searching is a waste. In the past couple of years, that message has been heard loud and clear from many care providers.  As a result tools like kanban have been introduced for inventory control and making sure that the commonly used supplies are closer to the point of use.

As we get closer to our move into the new building, a lot of focus has gone into ensuring that when care teams begin to provide care in this new space, they’ll have supplies available at the point of use so that they can spend more time focusing on patient care and less time searching for the supplies they require to provide care.

So what do we mean when we talk about point of use? In a nutshell, it’s about having what you need, when you need it, where you need it to be and in the amount that you need it to be in.

In the new regional hospital, one of the key design concepts is the addition of “pass-through” cupboards as part of each inpatient room. The cupboards are called “pass through” because of the dual access design that allows supplies to be accessed from inside the room and to be restocked from outside the patient room, limiting traffic in and out of patient rooms.

In preparation for the big move a team of staff from Materials Management, Housekeeping, Kaizen Promotion Office and patient care teams have been working on identifying what goes into these pass-through cupboards to ensure that from Day 1, supplies that are needed to provide excellent patient care are located within the patient rooms. It’s like a tunnel to Narnia, only instead of a world of talking lions and White Witches the doors lead to better, safer patient care.

“Patients will be receiving care sooner as the nurse can provide it while in the room, as supplies are there, rather than going to grab them only to get side tracked with other tasks.”
(Leanne Carroll, RN, Level 3 Surgical Unit)

Carroll also sees great benefits to staff with improvements coming in the form of “less time wasted, more one-to-one time with patients, less steps for staff over the course of a shift, decreased frustration for staff as supplies will be readily available, and patient care being done in a more efficient manner.”

Because the pass-through cupboards will house 80% of supplies needed in a room, “staff will be able to spend more face to face time with patients while providing care which will provide a better one-to-one rapport between care staff and patients.”
(Greg Schutte, Regional Director of Housekeeping and Linens)

That’s a big difference from our current realities where care providers have to walk up and down hallways and into supply rooms in order to get what they need. The fact is we have excellent people, who do really excellent work, who don’t want to spend time searching for supplies at the expense of direct patient care time.   Up until now they’ve often been limited by the design and shape of our existing hospital.

One of the great opportunities of the new regional hospital is that we now have a building that’s capable of enabling and even enhancing the work of the excellent people that serve here and that’s a marriage that will greatly benefit the patients and families of Five Hills.

Benefits that any patient and/or staff can agree are steps in the right direction towards a better, and a safer, hospital experience.

So while our current setup oftentimes leaves staff singing the words of U2 in their daily quest to find what they’re looking for, design innovations such as the pass through cupboards that will put 80% of care supplies at the point of use will surely have our patients and care teams singing a different tune.

Perhaps Pharrell’s “Happy” might be the new anthem of choice.



Photos above: A look inside the new pass through cupboards. Top picture shows the view into the cupboard from the hallway. Bottom photo is the same cupboard but looking in from inside a patient room.


Photo at top of story: Leanne Carroll, RN Surgery, introduces staff to the new pass through cupboards located in the inpatient care areas of the new regional hospital. Note the smile. Better, safer patient care.


Story by Mike Benallick, Training and Certification Lead, Five Hills Health Region

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