Code Pink – How Healthcare Facilities Can Deliver Peace of Mind to New Parents

We are all probably familiar with the phrase “Code Blue” from watching medical drama shows.  A less well-known phrase is “Code Pink”, the acknowledged code for an infant abduction in a hospital.  Though infant abductions are statistically rare (accounting for only 0.5% of all sentinel events reported to The Joint Commission), even one incident is too many. To ensure the safety of infants and bring peace of mind to new parents, healthcare facilities need to have an anti-abduction plan in place and provide a secure environment.

When my first daughter was born prematurely and needed to stay in the nursery for a few days for treatment, it was hard as a new parent to leave her.  Knowing that she would be cared for and protected by the nurses made it easier to and go home and get some much-needed sleep.

Planning for Prevention

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in cooperation with U.S. Dept. of Justice issued the Guidelines on Prevention of and Response to Infant Abductions in 2014. According to the Center’s recommendations, an anti-abduction plan should include the following:

  • Written Comprehensive Proactive Abduction Prevention Plan
  • Incident Response Plan (Code Pink)
  • Infant/Parent/Staff Identification Plan
      • Identification for the family including matching ID bands, taking footprints, color photos, full physical assessment, cord blood samples & no-cut security tag systems.
      • Staff should wear conspicuous, color photo ID badges.
      • The facility should require photo ID for all visitors.
  • Staff Education Plan – response drills which are part of an ongoing staff training program.
  • Parent Education Plan – Parents should be educated on security procedures and encouraged to ask questions if a situation feels uncomfortable.
  • Physical Security Infrastructure including real-time cameras, infant abduction alarm systems and electronically locking doors at all exits from the unit.

The Secure Environment

As architects and designers, we focus on designing a physical environment that supports and enhances our client’s proactive abduction prevention plan.  The architect’s role in reducing the threat of infant abduction includes designing spaces that can limit access, control movement and aid in monitoring and visualization.  The first line of defense for many facilities is to limit access to the birthing unit. Limiting the entrance points for family, visitors and staff to a single location that is controlled by a staff person is highly effective.  A single entrance point also makes it easier to ensure that family and visitors are issued ID badges.  Providing clear lines of sight throughout the birthing unit is also key.  Hidden corners and blind spots are not desirable.

Door Security is Key

Providing a secure boundary for the birthing unit is a critical piece of the physical infrastructure.  All exits from the unit – especially into stairwells – should be electronically locked at all times.  Controlling exit paths will provide valuable time for staff to intercede if an infant is abducted.  The exit doors’ electronic hardware should be integrated with the building’s fire alarm and security systems. To prevent an abductor from pulling the fire alarm to escape the unit, the door electronics should be configured to not unlock if the manual fire alarm is pulled (if approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction).


With the adoption of IBC 2015 & NFPA 101–2012 in Wisconsin, architects have more ability to lock down hospital birthing departments.  IBC 2015 now allows an electronic locking system in occupancies where the clinical needs of the patients require containment.  The 2012 edition of NFPA 101 allows special needs locks for patients requiring protective measures for their own safety.  These new changes, when carefully coordinated with existing emergency egress systems, allow for a high level of security not available in previous model codes for healthcare facilities.  Care should also be taken to secure doors to laundry and garbage chutes to prevent use by any unauthorized persons.

Layers of Security

The goal for the hospital’s security system is to provide a safe environment for the infant and their family.  We work hand in hand with the design engineers, the facility’s security staff, and security vendor to develop a comprehensive security system for the birthing unit and healthcare facility.  Careful coordination is needed to design a system that is effective and doesn’t detract from the welcoming design of the birthing unit.  The security system typically includes cameras, video recording, and 2-way intercom systems at entry points.  These components are additional deterrents for a would-be abductor.

An infant protection system is another layer of the security system.  A RFID tag secured around the infant’s ankle will activate an alarm if someone tries to take the infant from the birthing unit without proper security clearance.  The tag will also alarm if it is tampered with or cut.  Infant protection system sensors should be located near the birthing unit’s exit doors, stairwells, and elevators to control movement from the secured area.

Providing peace of mind

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The time spent developing a comprehensive anti-abduction plan, investing in security and physical infrastructure, and training staff how to respond in the unlikely event of an infant abduction will pay off.  New parents will be reassured by the parts of the plan they can see such as security cameras and signage. Proper visual identification for staff, infants, family, and visitors will make new parents more comfortable throughout their stay.  Equally important are pieces of the anti-abduction plan that aren’t as visible, such as controlled access and exiting for the birthing unit.  These are features which parents will take for granted.  All of these security components and the physical environment combine to create a birthing unit that delivers peace of mind to new parents and their bundle of joy.

Joe Haider, AIA, LEED AP

Joe Haider, AIA, LEED AP

Senior Associate | Senior Project Architect Healthcare Team

Mr. Haider is a Wisconsin Licensed Architect, Senior Project  Architect, specializing in healthcare is responsible for day to day management of the project, coordinating the project design, engineering, documentation and interfacing directly with the client and project team. Joe has earned a reputation for effectively managing client relationships with hospital facility staff, and working well with contractors while maintaining focus on his client’s needs.

Aurora’s Collaborative Care and Self-Rooming Models are the Answer During Pandemic Care

Zimmerman’s design for this clinic in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin is another strong example of collaborative care model planning, and Advocate Aurora Health’s commitment to improving operational efficiencies and patient outcomes.

Constructed by C.G. Schmidt, the 22,500 square foot project makes use of patient self-rooming for all 26 exam rooms which reduces wait times and the need for waiting area space. While this is smart and efficient planning that maximizes the use of patient care space, it has the added benefit of reduced congestion and minimized contact during the current pandemic. Staff shares open collaborative spaces that are off-stage from the patient areas and hidden from view. Exam rooms connect the separate operational flows of patients and staff with doors that open to both sides.



The design process made use of detailed visualizations to help end users understand the look and feel of the space before construction started, and confidently make planning and design decisions. Zimmerman continues to enjoy working with Advocate Aurora Health on projects that are forward-thinking, and that have proven results in staff and patient satisfaction.



Creating a Space for Spiritual Health in a Time of Healthcare Uncertainty – a Case Study

When circumstances are beyond our control, many find solace in connecting with the spirit. Through meditation, prayer, or reflection in a quiet place, healing the mind-body-spirit connection can bring peace during times of uncertainty. Earlier this year, Froedtert Hospital answered the call for soul healing and support by opening a renovated spiritual space nestled deep within the clinical maze. A small space squeezed between a noisy corridor and bustling offices, opened its new doors as an oasis of quiet meditation and self-reflection.

The design challenge was to transform the existing chapel within its current footprint. A sweeping curved wall was introduced to dissolve the sense of one’s orientation within the space and a wing wall was strategically placed to create a buffer to the main entry and aid in the transition to solemnity. The team took a strategic approach of incorporating little gems of reverence for diversity and various religious practices into the design matrix.


A very important goal was to maintain the multi-denominational inclusivity of the Chapel. The design team worked closely with the hospital chaplain on determining the content, the flow and the accurate visualization for all religious forms and functions of the space. Seven symbols of faith have been strategically placed to lead the way into the Chapel, unfolding this hidden room in front of visitors’ eyes.

In the heart of the Chapel – the Bible on the lectern and the sanctuary light on the wall; the Quran on its stand; the Prayer Wall with a floating shelf where words of thanks and pleas for healing are written – all received their appropriate space, orientation and iconography.

As the curved wall unravels in front of them, Chapel visitors get subtly cued in by several curated pieces of artwork and antiques from the donor’s personal collection. Four refinished antique kneelers bring the memories of old times and reinforce the importance of staying grounded in faith through prayer. The crystalline and weightless aquarelle painting of a canoe and its shadow pays tribute to the Native American way of life where religion is united with nature and landscape.

Anticipating the cue, Zimmerman designers took a biophilic design approach to bring natural materials and the sensation of natural light into the Chapel. The stained glass windows brightened the space and brought in the motifs of barley spikes as a homage to the heritage and the origin of the Froedtert Hospital trust, the Froedtert Malting Company.

Today, the Chapel is full of warm sun, bright blue skies, and fresh greens. The chosen glass colors blend nicely with light wood panels and soft fabrics, providing a needed atmosphere of calm and peace. A small stone wall, with candle-like integral lights and narrow slots for prayer notes, is now a place where prayers can be whispered or turned in. The ceiling oval provides tiny flickers of light for special occasions, while disguising the sound proofing above its wood grille. This acoustical blanket ensures for the moments of quietness in the worried life of a patient’s family, or in a stressed day of a staff member. Hidden behind the neighboring wall fabric finish is another layer of sound proofing – high efficiency acoustical panels, providing the shield from noisy offices beyond. All lights are LED, dimmable and programmable, enabling different settings for various uses of this space – for everyday public use, for special gatherings and ceremonies, for quiet nightly soul searching.  Smaller size stained glass panels are easily removable for LED ribbon lights replacement and maintenance. For larger size windows, back access to lights and wiring was provided with a goal of minimizing the disruption of Chapel services and reducing the risk of damage to large stained glass panels due to their removal.

The furniture has been carefully selected to be soft and comfortable, but at the same time sturdy and supportive. The chairs are light and movable, their rounded forms fitting the curvature of wood walls. Even though the benches appear airy and sculptural, they are bariatric grade and accessible to all.

In such a small space, every square inch was a premium. To provide for badly needed storage the design team made creative use of several residual spaces – a small storage room was carved out of the cavity behind the curved wall; the sacristy base cabinet was equipped with hidden hardware and magnetic locks to discourage potential thefts and make the storage function less obvious. To protect the privacy of prayer notes, a built-in collection box inside the stone clad wall was given a lockable access panel on the back side, accessible only to chapel staff.

The redesign of Kurtis R. Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Chapel came to life thanks to a generous donation to the Froedtert Hospital Foundation. Froedtert’s Facilities Planning and Development team partnered with Zimmerman Architectural Studios to lead the design effort, and with C.G. Schmidt as the general contractor. Stained glass windows were created in collaboration with Oakbrook Esser Studios in Oconomowoc.

Zimmerman Architectural Studios project design team is proud to have supported the creation of this precious retreat. We thank Froedtert Hospital for this opportunity, and we hope that the Chapel serves its noble purpose to the community for many years to come.

Team: Lisa Jansen ASID – Interior Design, Zorana Kostovic – Project Manager, Brian Nelson LEED AP – Architectural Designer





Zorana Kostovic

Zorana Kostovic

Senior Associate | Senior Project Associate

Ms. Kostovic, a project manager with more than 10 years of healthcare focused project management experience, participates in all stages of the healthcare design process, from schematic and design development, to construction documentation and management. Ms. Kostovic specializes in healthcare:  architecture project development; programming; planning; construction documents; construction administration, and specifications development. Zorana’s project portfolio includes physician’s suites, hospitals, clinics, and medical office buildings and she has completed both new construction and renovation and remodeling projects. Kostovic, whose career spans more than 20 years, has completed projects in the United States and abroad.  She is skilled in generation of project documentation in Architectural RE.