Health Cover Stories

Center of Caring: SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital

Driving down Grand Boulevard in Midtown, you can’t help noticing the sparkling medical complex that has been rising from a construction site over the last couple of years. The new, $550 million SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital is on track for a September grand opening, and it’s generating palpable excitement as well as attractive opportunities for medical professionals.

The 802,000-square-foot replacement hospital and ambulatory care center represent the latest chapter in the history of a medical campus that has expertly cared for patients for more than eight decades. Staffed by SLUCare physicians, the new facility also is a Level 1 trauma center and a teaching hospital for Saint Louis University’s medical and nursing schools.

Chief nursing officer Lisa Hoyle says the medical center has begun the process of hiring 200 nurses, and it promises to be a dynamic and fulfilling place for them to work. “An academic medical center can offer its staff tremendous learning experiences, and this hospital is a faith-based organization truly driven by its mission of caring,” she says. “When you combine all of these things with state-of-the-art technology and staff commitment, it creates an opportunity that nurses shouldn’t pass up.”

The complex was designed with direct input from staff and patients, according to Jennifer Garnica, administrative director of nursing operations. She says more than 400 employees participated in group sessions to offer ideas about the working environment, and former patients were asked for their input as well. “Our staff members compared the old hospital to their ideal workspaces and suggested how to integrate tools and devices to make their jobs easier and more efficient,” she says.

That’s a key point for recruitment, as it demonstrates the hospital’s commitment to a person-centered workplace. “Making our nurses’ jobs easier directly benefits the patient, too,” Garnica says. “When their workflow is more efficient, they can spend more time at the bedside caring for people.”

She offers the example of an ICU nurse who normally would have to round up staff members to help situate a patient in bed. In comparison, at the new hospital, the nurse will be able to use in-room lift equipment to move the patient quickly and safely. Everything about the new facility is designed with evolving technology in mind, including electronic whiteboards that patients can use to order a meal, watch Netflix or summon a nurse. “We also added RFID (radiofrequency identification) technology to staff ID badges so patients know who is caring for them at all times,” Garnica says. “As soon as an employee enters the room, his or her name pops up on the whiteboard.”

She says watching the new hospital evolve from architectural drawings to actual buildings has been an amazing experience. “Each week when I’ve come in to work, it has been striking to notice how much progress has been made,” she notes. “Everyone here is almost giddy with excitement about the September opening. It will be like moving into a beautiful new home that we helped create.”

The new, $550 million SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital complex is scheduled to open in September. For information about recruitment, visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo courtesy of SSM Health