Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Mind and Body: Design Elements to Address Cancer Patient Needs

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Mind and Body: Design Elements to Address Cancer Patient Needs

Article excerpt

Health care design requires special expertise from all project professionals. Architects, interior designers and engineers must consider many issues when patient care is involved, but designing facilities specifically for cancer patients elevates that level of expertise due to the many complex issues facing cancer patients and their families.

Cancer patients are a diverse population with one common thread: receiving the care that will cause the cancer to be cured or go into remission.

To accommodate this vast patient population, design professionals must create an environment that supports patients' physical and psychological needs. They need to have their fears curbed, their anxieties subdued and their confidence built.

Thoughtful design

Comprehending a diagnosis of cancer is life-changing. Being able to digest it and make sense out of the myriad of treatment options, possible complications, financial obligations and future outlook can be daunting. Design professionals who help create cancer centers must never lose sight of this. A cancer facility needs to provide exceptional care as well as support the special physical and psychological needs of patients and their loved ones.

For example, spaces that feature soothing reminders of nature seem to resonate with most patient populations. Ways to accomplish this can involve incorporating natural light; wood or wood-like products; lighting features that mimic the sky; products that use natural elements that could be indigenous to the local area, such as embedded sea grass in a facility near the ocean; and artwork that is neither confusing nor could be misunderstood and, therefore, create a sense of anxiety or frustration.

During the early diagnosis stage, patients often are in an exam room for hours at a time while physicians from different modalities meet with them. Success ful designs of these multidisciplinary exam rooms often incorporate elements that will help to eliminate anxiety and boredom.

Providing on-site amenities for cancer patients can be very helpful. Many cancer centers offer spaces that incorporate alternative medicine such as massage and acupuncture; and aesthetic boutiques, which specialize in prostheses and other wellness-related items such as wig-fitting and styling rooms and private dressing rooms. Conference centers that can be subdivided into smaller rooms also should be part of the facility. The conference center should have the flexibility to accommodate large lectures or small support groups and educational functions. The rooms should be located near the entrance to the facility so events held in the evening hours are easy to find.

During a potentially exhausting day, patients and their families will appreciate the convenience of having food and beverages on-site. A small cafe located within the lobby that can support gourmet coffee, juices, yogurt and sandwiches can save families valuable time from having to retrieve nourishment in the main hospital cafeteria or braving the elements going to an off-campus facility. If the cafe is incorporated into the initial design, this will prevent unsightly coffee carts from appearing haphazardly in the future.

Access to outdoor spaces can be invaluable --often, having a breath of fresh air and seeing a blue sky can refresh the mind and spirit. If space and budget allow, cancer centers should incorporate outdoor gardens and patios.

Particularly important is access to outdoor space off the infusion suite. Especially in warm weather, giving patients who spend the better part of the day confined to one area access to a garden setting will break up the monotony. When selecting plantings, design professionals should keep in mind that during winter months the garden still needs to have visual interest, color and texture. If not carefully selected for its interesting texture or bark, the use of all deciduous trees and bushes may make for a dull garden in many U. …

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