Cancer patients help design new UIHC wing


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The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics staff marveled Wednesday at the crystal-clear panes of glass and freshly painted beige and teal walls of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center's new clinic and infusion suites.


The wing, set to open next week, was on display for the first time Wednesday, and officials gushed over their new digs.

The two-story expansion to the UIHC was unique, officials noted, because patients played a crucial role in its design.

A committee of 12 cancer patients regularly attended design meetings, where they contributed their insights and ideas to the project.

"[Patient involvement] is important because truly patient-centered care is the most important thing that we're after," John Buatti, deputy director for clinical cancer services, said during a tour. "We should recognize the team and, of course, there were the nurses and staff, but most important were the patients."

One of the most notable suggestions to come from the patient team was a chemotherapy chair, custom-made for comfort and efficiency.

"[What is special about the chair] is the fit and how they can recline," said Keri Mercer, a cancer information specialist at the clinic. "When [patients] are going through infusion, whether it's through the arm or the core, you want them to be comfortable, so that was a big deal."

Now, dozens of these special chairs are found in the new infusion suite.

In addition, the patient committee requested officials construct a family waiting area, which Buatti called "very important."

Other aspects of the design suggested by patients include numerous small waiting rooms as opposed to one large waiting room, love seats and chairs strewn throughout the area, and only one television in community areas.

"We want the patients to have input in every step of the process, from registering to how the chemotherapy chair feels when you sit in them, to whether or not they want to have private space or more social," said George Weiner, the director of the Holden Comprehensive Care Center. "Some patients like televisions, some don't, and so we sought to get their input as we designed the sector in all levels."

During the tours of the facility Wednesday, hospital staff continually expressed how important patient satisfaction is to the mission of the clinic.

"Patient satisfaction was the top goal," Gaarde said. "Whatever we can do to make the experience not scary."

One member of the patient committee, breast-cancer survivor Von Cille Johnson, said she was thrilled to help UIHC reach this goal.

"I hate that I had cancer, but I am so thankful that I was able to help and give my input," she said. "If I can help somebody else out, it was meant to be."

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