Five years ago, on my first day on the job with Dewberry, I attended a planning meeting at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) hospital in Zion, Illinois. Known as the Midwestern Regional Medical Center (MRMC), this facility near Chicago is one of five CTCA hospitals across the U.S. Our Tulsa office has been privileged to provide architectural and engineering services at all of these campuses over the past several years.

I love a good puzzle, and in many ways, a healthcare design challenge can present the ultimate architectural puzzle, balancing needs of technology, clinical functions, and exacting engineering requirements. The MRMC in Zion is a good example. At the time of our meeting in 2011, CTCA was looking to update and expand its aging facilities on the campus. Patient rooms were all semi-private and inadequate, with little space to accommodate patients' families and caregivers. As a result, the rooms consistently were rated as the major dissatisfier in patient satisfaction surveys. Patients and families also struggled with confusing and inefficient navigation in the facility, a consequence of numerous previous additions. The hospital needed higher quality, all-private patient rooms as well as an increase in the overall number of patient rooms, architectural and interior design features leading to improved navigation and wayfinding, and space for an expanded array of amenities and services.

Midwestern Regional Medical Center

Patient-Empowered Care®

At the time, the success of CTCA's new campuses at Southwestern Regional Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear, Arizona, clearly demonstrated that thoughtful, efficient healthcare design concepts could dramatically enhance patient care. CTCA at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Newnan, Georgia, would also soon open, incorporating innovative design strategies to support the hospital's vision for Patient-Empowered Care®. These concepts, which emphasized streamlined, efficient care to minimize stress on patients, provide accommodations for families, and offer extensive amenities ranging from salon and spa services to nutritional education, were essential to the expansion at MRMC. Offering all of this in a setting that feels warm and welcoming rather than clinical and anxiety-producing is a hallmark of CTCA's image.

Midwestern Regional Medical Center2

We were also challenged to design the expansion--a 168,000-square-foot, six-story inpatient tower--while avoiding disruption to patient care and maintaining a calm, peaceful environment. The tower created a new main entrance with a two-story lobby and new elevator banks linking new and existing areas of the building, space for a new culinary department and 250-seat dining room, and a landscaped courtyard. There are three inpatient floors for oncology, medical/surgical, ICU, and stem cell patients; and 48 guest rooms for outpatients and families.

Midwestern Regional Medical Center3

Decentralized nursing stations minimize steps and maximize bedside care. Many of the rooms are ICU-capable to avoid patient transfers as their acuity level changes. There are a number of relaxation areas for patients and family members, as well as renewal rooms for nurses. As with all of our concepts for CTCA, we took a holistic approach to the design, considering the landscape, views to the outdoors, natural light, visual arts, and the careful selection of materials and design features. We believe the continuum of architectural design extends to nature, interior settings, lighting design, materials, furniture, and more to create integrated sensory experiences. This approach has influenced everything from where we place windows to the design of ceilings in treatment and diagnostic areas.

Midwestern Regional Medical Center4

Aligning Spirit and Focus

Today, the MRMC campus has expanded to more than 460,000 square feet--an increase of more than 75 percent. In addition to the new tower, we've completed several interior renovation projects, all aimed at enhancing services and patient care. These projects have been technically challenging, and have addressed specific and urgent needs for CTCA and their clients--patients, their families, and the community at large. In order to complete each of these "puzzles" successfully, we believe the projects must be beautiful and lift the spirits of all who use these facilities.The buildings are a physical embodiment of our mission--together with CTCA--to create compassionate, healing environments offering the best patient-focused care possible.

As an architect working with CTCA, I've learned to set the bar high, work collaboratively, and support the client's vision with a strong alignment of spirit and focus. CTCA lives and breathes its mission. It is truly inspiring to see how far they will go to improve the lives of their patients.