Reinvigorate Our Space – Illawarra Cancer Care Centre - Main Reception and Wait Spaces
In 2017, we launched the ‘Bright Ideas’ campaign. We engaged our patients, staff and volunteers via a survey asking how we could make the patient experience a better one. The feedback we received was direct, powerful, effective and clearly identified for us the needs and wants of our patients. A standout was the overwhelming response that told us our space was dated, clinical and uncomfortable. Patients told us that sitting on plastic chairs lined in a row made them feel like they were awaiting sentencing – and that our seats are uncomfortable! They expressed that our clinical and cold feeling waiting areas only encouraged feelings of anxiety and fear about their cancer treatment.
Our Centre is always clean, well maintained and functional however there had been minimal changes to the design and furnishings since its opening in 1991. While we autonomously and enthusiastically advocate for high quality treatment for our patients we had overlooked how we were presenting our spaces and the flow on affect it had to patient wellbeing. As staff members it wasn’t a matter of ignoring the plastic seating lined up in a row, it was simply that we didn’t sit there while waiting for a life changing appointment.
We now knew that as patients entered our building, be it for the first time or for their fifteenth appointment, we wanted our facility to inspire a feeling of “You are welcome here and we care about you”.
From that point we directed a percentage of 2017-2019 Dry July fundraising to reinvigorating our space. We worked with an interior designer to create a main wait space that was social, while still accommodating for patients who wished to be alone. Patients told us they wanted a warmer environment with softer décor and visual improvements. We began redesigning with a focus to reduce patient anxiety, enhance perceptions about quality of care, distinguish our facility from others, generate positive word-of-mouth within our community, and actually make the time spent waiting for appointments feel shorter than it actually is.
We purchased hospital grade and infection control approved soft furnishings, chairs, side tables and a dining table, art works and artificial plants. Painting was updated, lighting improved, window tinting installed and cosmetic façade upgrades completed to kitchenette and main reception. To come is joinery designed to create the feeling of nature indoors and the redesign and relocating of our NSW Cancer Council kiosk. We removed clutter and reorganised resources and signage to take full advantage of our amazing view of the Illawarra escarpment.
The improvements so far speak for themselves. We will now introduce the welcoming, uplifting and calming feeling to other areas of the centre by replicating this original design. Respecting the patient experience was at the heart of all we wanted to deliver. Improving on the hospitality we extend to our patients will provide them with a better experience that positively impacts their wellbeing.
Thank you to the Dry July Foundation who shared our vision and also supported us with patience. We could not have foreseen the challenges that arose which ultimately led to lengthy delays in delivery of this project. Dry July Foundation fundraising and successful grant applications for this project totalled $125K.