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Brighter Horizons

Altru’s New Hospital Will Incorporate Light and Nature into Healthcare

By Marla DeFoe

In the heart of Grand Forks, a large structure, climbing seven stories, is emerging. Altru’s new hospital construction continues to progress, with plans to be finished by Fall 2024. What may look like just another building, is the beginning of a pioneering hospital promising not only cutting-edge medical care, but also an innovative and natural approach to patient well-being. Dr. Joshua Deere, president of Altru Health System, said, “Altru’s new hospital is a huge step for our community and an investment for our region. It’s going to change how we deliver care, and our patients will benefit from that.”


I had the opportunity to tour the new hospital, and while it is far from complete, it is easy to envision what the future holds for the new hospital.


The first thing patients and guests will see as they approach the hospital is a two-story wall of windows, letting the natural light shine in. In fact, the abundance of light throughout the building is an integral part of the design, benefiting all who use the hospital. Surrounding the hospital will be walking paths, ponds, and plenty of green space, further incorporating the healing power of nature.

“There is a strong connection between natural light and healing, so we have brought in natural light wherever we could for our patients, our guests, and our team members,” said Dr. Deere. “One example of this is a light-filled corridor our patients will use, that runs somewhat parallel to Columbia Road. Our cafeteria will be filled with natural light, we have an employee-only stairwell with windows, and many more features that bring natural light into our hospital.”


Altru has provided outstanding patient care for over 130 years, and it’s easy to see that the design of the new hospital was built with the patient’s experience in mind.


So, what will the patient notice? Let’s start with the patient rooms. These rooms have been designed so Altru team members will not have to enter patient rooms as frequently, ensuring better rest and healing. For example, a cabinet holding fresh linens and supplies will be stocked from the hallway, but accessible from inside the patient room. When patients need to be transported from one area of the hospital to another, separate elevators and hallways will allow them to be moved without crossing paths with guests.


For surgical patients, there will be private pre- and post-operative rooms versus a large bay with privacy curtains in-between, allowing for more discretion. The state-of-the-art operating rooms will be equipped with the latest technology, including a dedicated trauma operating room. A trauma-dedicated elevator provides medical services from the ambulance bay to the operating room, for when every second counts.


The ER in the new hospital is larger and will provide much greater efficiencies for our team members. “Our new emergency room is going to be a big game changer for our community and our region,” said Dr. Deere. “It is almost exclusively private rooms, which will make it great for privateness of care, bedside assistance, and ease of flow. All throughout our hospital we will have private rooms, including our NICU.”

This year, Altru was named one of America’s best maternity hospitals. They plan to continue that same level of compassionate care with thoughtful labor & delivery, and NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) designs in the new hospital. The private NICU rooms will be available, as opposed to all babies within one room. Private rooms give family members the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with their baby, while they grow stronger and heal. Each NICU room will include a space for a guest to sleep as well.


"I am looking forward to the NICU in the new hospital. The most exciting part is the individual rooms, or private rooms, and the extra space, since each one will be like a suite, where the parents can stay with their children," said Dr. Durga Panda, neonatologist and Pediatric Department chair at Altru. "We have been planning and anticipating this for quite some time. We've been involved and very instrumental in planning each and every aspect of our hospital's new NICU."


While patient care is the primary focus for Altru, careful consideration has also been made for team members and guests.

For employees, the building has been designed for better flow, ensuring efficiency, safety, and a better work experience. Where possible, there are private staff hallways that allow doctors, nurses, and other team members to easily conference and work together. Staff will benefit from the same natural light in hallways and stairwells. Innovative design, new technology, and state-of-the-art equipment will assist staff with providing the best care possible to their patients.


Most of us have been a guest in a hospital at one point, occasionally for extended periods. Altru has taken care to ensure the guest experience is also positive. Natural light shines through the areas guests spend their time while a loved one is in the hospital, including the cafeteria, spiritual center, and family lounges. Plans also include a coffee shop and gift shop on the main floor. All of these features allow guests quiet and healing spaces to destress.

As you can see, Altru has thoughtfully planned and designed this new hospital with every person who enters the building in mind. Natural light has emerged as a powerful ally in healing, offering an array of remarkable benefits that go beyond mere aesthetics.


Studies have shown that exposure to natural light can positively influence the body's circadian rhythms, leading to improved sleep patterns and enhanced mood regulation for all. Additionally, sunlight fosters the production of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in strengthening the immune system and promoting overall wellness. Hospitals that prioritize abundant natural light have observed reduced stress levels among patients and increased staff satisfaction, providing a more nurturing and compassionate healthcare environment.

By harnessing the healing potential of natural light, Altru is embracing a holistic approach to patient care, supporting faster recovery times and contributing to the overall well-being of those in their care, as well as loved ones and team members. The "hospital-in-the-park" concept further unites nature and healing, providing guests and staff with a beautiful, natural environment and a healthcare campus of which the community will be proud.


Fast Facts

• 552,000 square feet

• Seven floors, 226 licensed patient beds, 16-bed observation unit

• Negative pressure unit, which proved important during the COVID-19 pandemic

• First patient will enter Q1 or Q2 of 2025

• Light-filled waiting rooms

• Cafeteria filled with natural light for gathering, eating or taking a break

• Larger Emergency Department to better serve the needs of the community

• Three guest elevators

• Outdoor dining space accessible from the cafeteria

• A spiritual center with abundant natural light

• Private NICU rooms

• Private pre- and post-operative rooms

• Trauma and backup trauma elevators for quick transport G


// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here

From Issue 3, 2023

PHOTOS By Manstrom Photography and RENDERINGS By JLG Architects

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