Students propose improvements for Southwest Health Center

December 4, 2013

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Four University of Wisconsin-Platteville industrial engineering students have the opportunity to not only apply their education in a real-life setting, but potentially help the Platteville community at the same time. As a senior design project for the Industrial Systems Design class, Joanna Borzecki, from Armstrong Creek, Wis.; Grant Oldenburg, from Clinton, Wis.; Joshua Terrill, from Sun Prairie, Wis.; and Shawn Henning, from Howards Grove, Wis., all senior industrial engineering majors, have been tasked with improving services to patients in the surgical services department of Southwest Health Center in Platteville.

“The initial goal of the project was determining how we could reduce any surgical delay at Southwest Health Center,” explained Terrill.

According to Director of Surgical Services Jon Chmielewski, RN, the facility has the surgical capabilities of a larger hospital, yet this local healthcare provider’s focus is always on delivering personal care in the best way possible. “Our patients are the focus of everything we do,” he said. “So we’re always interested in learning how we may be able to make changes to a process to improve the quality of care or improve our service for the benefit of the patient and their family members.”

After spending time at the health center observing and analyzing procedures, the team realized they could capitalize on an upcoming expansion and renovation of the hospital, incorporating this into their suggested plans for optimizing the organizational operations.

“A large part of our time has been spent making facility layouts, incorporating our coursework on designing a facility, as well as getting input from a lot of staff that work at Southwest Health Center and doing research on standards for hospitals,” said Terrill.

To complete this research, the team visits the hospital bi-weekly. Visits range from one to five hours.

“During our visits, we not only talk with the nurses and surgical staff, but we also do observations of the current flow of patients, surgeons and nurses,” said Borzecki. In October, the team completed an intermediate progress review, during which they presented to Southwest Health Center staff, on site, and discussed their observations and analysis thus far.

The students agreed that the experience has been valuable by affording them a glimpse into the field of healthcare management engineering, an area that most of them had not experienced.

“It was interesting to have an experience outside of industry, and see what type of problems we would address if we were engineers in a hospital versus in a manufacturing site,” said Borzecki.

“It turned out to be pretty similar to a manufacturing process, but with a different product,” added Oldenburg. “It’s a human, not an item, but we still ended up using a lot of the same tools and ideas.”

“I learned a lot about how to apply what I learn in the classroom,” said Henning. “It helped me realize not everything is like a factory and there are a lot of different ways that I can apply what I know in different fields.”

The results of their project will be presented to Southwest Health Center officials this month in the form of three different recommended facility layouts — each corresponding with a low, medium and high bid on expected costs. In addition to facility layouts, the recommended plans will include various accessories, such as a new patient paging system.

“It’s really nice to be involved in a senior design project that is within our community and could impact locals in Southwest Wisconsin,” said Borzecki. “The reason I went into industrial engineering is to help people and I like that this is a project that could make an impact.”

The project was arranged by Dr. S. Balachandran and completion of the project satisfied the requirement for the course INDSTENG 4930 – Industrial Systems Design in fall 2013 for the four students.

Written by: Alison Parkins, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1526,


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