Spark Innovation Competition Project Jumps to Life — Refreshing Gateway to Care

February 15, 2024 by

UVA Spark Paint Project organizersA Spark Innovation Competition winning project has been unveiled — supporting UVA Health’s 10-year strategic plan goals of best place to work, easy access, and superior patient outcomes.

Ann Mercer, Data Integrity Specialist, Peri-Operative Services, submitted the idea to paint murals in two UVA Health parking garages to help make it easier for patients and their families, visitors, and team members to access our services — while lifting spirits along the way.

Disrupt the Norm

UVA Spark Paint Project balloon muralThe Spark Innovation Competition, which supports our strategic plan goal of best place to work by fostering a culture of “yes” and innovation, was sparked by an effort to engage team members.

“The intent is to disrupt the norm by cutting through bureaucracy to provide a highly visible platform for any UVA Health member to share their ideas. We’re hearing and acting on the voices of our team members,” says Hannah Spencer Fitzhugh, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer’s Special Initiatives Lead — a UVA and Oxford University alum who has worked for 15+ years at UVA and UVA Health.

And any team member can submit an idea, but they don’t have to ensure it comes to fruition. If they choose, they can have a say in the direction they want the idea to go.

Paint the Gray

The first Spark Innovation Competition — open December 2021 through February 2022 — focused on the clinical environment and drew nearly 300 entries and in summer 2022, resulting in six winning projects including Mercer’s idea for parking garage murals called “Paint the Gray.”

“The object is to begin the experience the moment the patient drives up and parks,” Mercer wrote in her submission.

Once initial design concepts of the murals were created, team members and visitors were involved in the final decision-making. More than 1,000 team members voted online; 70 percent chose a Flowers of Virginia theme for the Lee Street garage, which is used for patient parking — but from Level D on up, also is used for team member parking.

Mercer suggested what would become the Wildlife of Virginia theme for the 11th Street garage, which is used only for patient parking.

UVA Spark Paint Project fox mural‘Screams With Delight’

Whimsical animals “could be a bright start for a nervous kid,” she explained in her submission. “I think if just one little kid looks up and screams with delight at something they see, that will be a success! I hope it will make a difference to families coming to the Battle Building.” Mercer also suggested that a color or theme distinct to each level would improve wayfinding in both garages.

“We listened to the vision of the idea originator,” Fitzhugh says.

‘Grace and Comfort’

Fitzhugh then connected with Anne B. Brown, who’s served as Arts Program Coordinator, University Medical Center Operations, for about two and a half years; overall, for UVA Health for 17 years. Her current role helps Brown — who was an arts and English double major — return to her roots. And this Spark project further fueled her enthusiasm to support patients and their families, visitors, and team members. “I was thrilled they asked me to be a part of it,” she recalls.

Brown brought in Charlottesville’s The Bridge arts collective and UVA undergrad and graduate alum — artist, photographer, and designer Brittany Fan — to create the murals.

Brown, who’d worked for the Emergency Department for eight years, knew firsthand there was a need to improve wayfinding and brighten the spaces. “When patients and families come, they want to get in, do what they need to do, and get out — we’re here to provide them with as much grace and comfort along the way as we can.”

Fitzhugh also hails the Outpatient Surgery Center (OPSC) nursing and patient care technician (PCT) teams as being “very instrumental” in the project. “Nurses lives are devoted to helping patients in nearly every aspect of their experience here,” she says, recalling the story of one nurse breaking down in tears — after spending a half hour helping a lost patient find his way through the garage.

The Facilities Management team, led by Kevin Fox, provided support on all phases of the project, from powerwashing to the operational intricacy of briefly dimming garage lights in the parking garage after hours to allow for a projector screen to be used for the outline of the murals. “Our facilities team members were the operational backbone to making this idea a reality,” says Fitzhugh.

UVA Spark Paint Project letter A mural‘I’m In!’

Fitzhugh brought in Donna Randall, RN, who has worked pre/post OSPC for about five years at UVA Health and been a nurse overall for 43 years. She says PACU [Post Anesthesia Care Unit] can spend hours taking up to 60 patients a day to and from the garage, helping them get out of or into a vehicle with a relative or friend.

“We explain everything coming and going. It can be a very confusing and overwhelming time for patients and family, and time consuming for team members. Anything I can do to make that process easier — I’m in! These murals are a step in the right direction to help with wayfinding and brightening a patient’s day.”

Easy Access and Superior Patient Outcomes

The murals were unveiled in January 2024. “It’s been humbling to see how many people were involved — not only in getting these wonderful murals designed and painted — but also in ensuring they are useful,” Mercer says. “Vickie Marsh in the Patient Experience Office reports calls are coming in from patients, saying how much better it is to have the murals to guide them into UVA Health Children’s and OPSC — and back to their cars again.”

Article by Sudha Kamath. Photos by Kay Taylor.

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