Jane Weldon, vice president of mission integration and clinic operations, and Mark Thompson, MD, chief medical officer, look out from the second floor of the new hospital toward the current facility.

Monroe Clinic Builds Hospitality into Hospitalization

This health system in northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin is aggressively expanding, and as it opens a brand-new, state-of-the-art hospital, the future’s looking bright.

Jane Weldon, vice president of mission integration and clinic operations, and Mark Thompson, MD, chief medical officer, look out from the second floor of the new hospital toward the current facility.

The City of Monroe, Wis., county seat of Green County, has long enjoyed a unique place in the hearts of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois residents. Well known for its beautiful downtown square, with shops, restaurants and cheese markets, and especially for its biennial Cheese Days celebration, Monroe is also recognized as a mecca for top-notch healthcare.
Located near several cities that provide healthcare services, including Madison, Rockford, Janesville and Freeport, Monroe is also known for its outstanding multi-specialty care at Monroe Clinic.
Monroe’s original St. Clare Hospital was built by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes and opened in 1939. President and CEO Mike Sanders explains that the congregation, based in Fond du Lac, Wis., established a hospital in Monroe by invitation.
“They met with the physicians and community leaders of Monroe and then went back to Fond du Lac, where they held another meeting,” he says. “They said they could do it. In just over a year, St. Clare Hospital opened, at a cost of less than $1 million. Contrast that with today’s hospital, which took three years of planning and will be more than two years in construction and cost $83 million.
“What hasn’t changed, since the very beginning, is the commitment that the Sisters of St. Agnes brought with them to the region, to serve all people, including the poor and the vulnerable.”
St. Clare Hospital expanded in 1950, and again in 1970, to meet the growing needs of the communities it serves. In 1992, St. Clare Hospital and Monroe Clinic consolidated their services, becoming more commonly known as Monroe Clinic. The commitment to serve all people transcended the consolidation.
Today, the Monroe Clinic Board of Directors guides this healthcare ministry locally; the board includes community leaders from Green County, Wis., and Stephenson County, Ill., along with five local physicians and two representatives from the Sisters of St. Agnes.
“Our doors are open for all,” Sanders says. “While the Sisters are less visible now, they still inspire us to fulfill our mission and guide our efforts. Through the decades, Monroe Clinic has become known as the go-to health care destination for residents of Green and Stephenson County and reaches other areas in Wisconsin as well. We’re a multi-specialty clinic that strives to assess, diagnose, treat or refer patients in one day, if possible, instead of requiring multiple visits. We’re aware that many patients come from farther away, so one-day visits are very appealing.”
Monroe Clinic attracts 37 percent of its patients from Illinois, through three clinics in Freeport, as well as one each in Durand and Lena. “We have a loyal patient base that continues to grow,” Sanders says.
Steve Borowski, director of facilities, joined Monroe Clinic about five years ago, when the hospital was on the verge of another expansion.
Monroe Clinic’s new hospital utilizes many windows to capture natural light, aiding patients on their healing journeys.

“We hired a construction management company and architects in 2007,” he says. “We worked through a couple of years of design that included direct input from more than 250 Monroe Clinic employees. We broke ground in December 2009. The new hospital is being built directly across the street from the old one. It’s designed to be a stand-alone facility, but will also be connected to the clinic building on all four levels.”
Although the hospital is licensed for 100 beds, the new facility will remain at a 70-bed capacity. The majority of medical disciplines will move to the new hospital when it opens in late March 2012. But one aspect will change.
“Not only are we investing in a tremendous amount of new technology, but we’re also striving to be designated as a LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Silver-certified inpatient hospital, possibly the first in Wisconsin,” Borowski says. “Everything is being built with energy efficiency in mind. The building will have oilless chillers, setback lighting controls and three green roofs that provide less of a heat load in summer, give our patients beautiful views and bring nature into their rooms.”
Integrated systems were designed to improve all facets of hospital operation. Nurse call, pneumatic tubes and security and fire systems will be interconnected. The hospital’s operating rooms are designed to be universal, meaning any type of procedure can be performed in them. They’ll also include video integration and state-of-the-art LED lighting that generates minimal heat, uses less power and provides superior illumination.
“Our current birthing center provides separate rooms for labor/delivery and post partum [LDRP],” Borowski says. “In the new Monroe Clinic hospital, we have seven LDRP rooms, so the patient can remain in the same room for the entire stay. In LDRP, inpatient and ICU units, sleeper sofas add comfort for overnight visitors. We want our patients and their families to feel at home. We’re striving to put a lot of hospitality into a hospital setting.”
Monroe Clinic already has a reputation for excellent healthcare, and Borowski expects that patient satisfaction will only improve.
Sanders says the difference between the old and new hospitals is like night and day. “There’s been a dramatic change in how healthcare is delivered,” he says. “We collected evidence from many sources and are incorporating it into a warm, healing environment with natural lighting, soft neutral colors, sound reduction features and pleasing shapes, supplemented by state-of-the-art technology and exceptional service.”
One of the major changes in today’s healthcare environment is the radical shift toward outpatient care. Today, nearly 80 percent of Monroe Clinic’s surgical patients are admitted on an outpatient basis, which has influenced the design of the hospital’s services.
“Currently, surgical patients come in on one floor and move from floor to floor and department to department,” Sanders says. “In the new hospital, outpatients will find all of the services conveniently located in the same area. This not only helps the patients, but also creates efficiency, by reducing the amount of time our staff takes to move patients through the hospital.”
A substantial amount of staff input helped to shape the new hospital’s proximity, design and patient safety factors. New concepts were developed from site visits. Online research added to the hospital’s flexibility and compatibility, resulting in maximum patient comfort and quality of care.
The chapel garden is a new feature that’s accessible to patients and guests.

“When we move the minimally invasive da Vinci Surgical System to the new facility, we’ll not only continue to use it for gynecological surgeries, but for urology procedures and to address prostate and other male conditions,” says Mark Thompson, MD, chief medical officer. “I often spend time talking with patients who tell me they’re amazed with the technology offered and the compassion delivered at Monroe Clinic.”
The new site also includes a helicopter pad, so that when necessary, patients easily can be transferred.
One of Monroe Clinic’s innovative designs is collaborative work stations set into alcoves along the hallways, where nurses, doctors and ancillary staff can privately review and discuss a patient’s condition and other sensitive matters. The new layout allows nurses to be closer to their patients, a value-added convenience. So, too, does the same-handed design of patient rooms.
“We’re trained to approach patients from their right sides,” Thompson explains. “Normally, hospital rooms are designed as mirror images, with the utilities along the same wall, meaning as clinical staff moves from room to room, the orientation to the patient changes. The old way meant doctors and nurses had to walk around beds to assist patients. With same-handed room design, we increase patient safety and save time, because every room is standardized and everything is in precisely the same place room to room. Nurses and doctors don’t have to search or reverse their thinking. This actually saves valuable time when a patient is in crisis.”
Monroe Clinic also practices lean operating methods. The manner in which supplies are stocked eliminates waste and saves time, while advancing efficiency and function. “We studied lean systems extensively,” Thompson says. “Supplies are distributed to avoid unnecessary travel and transport, and are controlled to avoid overstock, so each patient is provided with just what’s needed, when it’s needed.”
Many patient comfort features have been provided, from whirlpool tubs in the family birth and women’s center, to soothing colors, soft lighting and natural views from patient rooms, all intended to promote healing, Thompson says.
“Technology, such as fetal monitoring by telemetry for the birthing units, provides mothers with the ability to move around more during labor. The in-room sleeper sofas for families have been shown to promote patient healing, especially in the elderly. The positive influence of having family close also results in a higher level of support and quiets anxieties.”
Food service has also undergone extensive redesign, allowing patients to dine at their convenience. “We offer room service,” Thompson says. “Patients can call and order meals built around their schedules. This way, they won’t come back from therapy, treatments or diagnoses to find they missed their lunch or dinner.”
The effort to provide every sort of comfort extends to general areas of the hospital as well, Thompson says. Fireplaces in the lobby and dining facility warm the atmosphere and give families a place to reflect or relax with patients. Even the three green roofs are geared toward patient healing and comfort.
“We’ll be able to take patients out onto one of the rooftop gardens in their wheelchairs, or even in their hospital beds, with doctor approval,” Thompson says. “We treat palliative and hospice patients, so this is a unique and healing experience for them and their families.”
Thompson says the new hospital’s design and focus are based on connectivity, joining professional staff to innovative technology in a state-of-the-art facility. The features assure that Monroe Clinic is positioned to provide the best healthcare, well into the future.
Plans also are being laid to make the best possible use of the existing hospital. When the move into the new facility is completed next spring, not all departments will go. Rather, some will transition into newer parts of the original hospital.
“Some of these existing spaces will be renovated,” Sanders explains. “Our tentative goal is to take down the oldest portions that are now 75 years old and inefficient. Our general plan is that two to three years into the future, the newest parts of the old hospital will still be in use.”
Whether old or new, Sanders says that Monroe Clinic continues to faithfully follow its mission statement: “Working together to achieve the highest standards in healthcare, we create healthy communities through God’s healing spirit.”
“Our operating philosophy is our mission statement,” he emphasizes. “We spent a lot of time developing it. We really do work together in interdisciplinary teams to provide the best possible care, to walk with our patients on their healing journey with compassion. Our standards and values guide us in our healthcare ministry every step of the way. We’re here to provide exceptional healthcare and exceptional experiences to the patients we have the privilege of serving.” ❚