Brenda West helped create Summit Pacific in Elma


Brenda West, Chief Nursing Officer of the new Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma, said one of the goals when building the new facility was to build a hospital that doesn’t smell or feel like a hospital.

“That wasn’t allowed,” she says, laughing.

West was instrumental in the leadership team that helped make the move earlier this year from Mark Reed in McCleary to the new 20-bed Summit Pacific Hospital in Elma. The old facility had 10,000 square feet; the new one has 43,000. A lot of thought went into every foot of the greatly expanded square footage.

“We want something we could grow into,” West says. She and Chief Executive Officer Renee Jensen wanted input from the bottom up. “People who do the work should design their work space,” said West, who came to Elma from Vancouver, Wash., three years ago.

Employees from all levels were asked to walk through the new facility as a patient would. They also played the part of other jobs such as nurse or doctor and were encouraged to think about how their work meshes together rather than act as “silos,” or individuals on their own.

The $24 million facility is filled with rich colors and fabrics that echo the colors of fall and the Pacific Northwest: browns, golds, greens, blues, accented with wood and glass. Ten beds are in the emergency department, 10 more are in-patient beds. Medical teams come to the patients rather than the reverse.

The new ER is working well. At the old facility, they saw 300 to 400 patients per month, now 750 are seen. The length of stay in the ER is short, by other hospital standards, just two hours.

One change did not suit visitors, the lack of magazines in the waiting areas. “They are germ magnets,” she said.

West points to a bulletin board filled with complimentary paper shoes, where employees write notes about what they perceive as being done well.

Most are boots. An employee, knowing her penchant for high heels, made up stilettos for her to write her compliments on.

A break room with full kitchen, big screen TV and access to an outdoor patio is shared by all employees so they are encouraged to mingle.

So, a hospital that doesn’t look, smell, or feel like a hospital. How’s the food? “Excellent,” she grins. We have a chef. People now line up for the food he cooks. “The line starts at 11:30 a.m” she says.