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Cancer Outpatient Center At Cedars-Sinai Designed To Promote Healing and Wellness

When you are a cancer patient, getting a fever or nausea may be life threatening.

Where do you go to seek immediate attention?

In an emergency room at most hospitals where resources are scarce, a fever will not take priority over a gunshot wound or car accident.

But for people with cancer, the fever can be just as life threatening as the wound.

There is one place people on the West Coast can go 24 hours a day, seven days a week: The Cedars-Sinai Outpatient Cancer Center at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.

The cancer outpatient center provides patients the opportunity to meet with cancer specialists round the clock for dehydration, pain, nausea, bleeding or any other side effects. If the specialist decides a trip to the ER is needed, he or she will call the ER doctors ahead of time so they are knowledgeable before the patient arrives.

At the outpatient center, 24-hour chemotherapy treatment is available. On a daily basis, usually 350 people visit the center on Beverly Boulevard. Seventy seek chemotherapy, and the same number of people also receive radiation there.

The amount of visits to the hospital by cancer patients has increased dramatically, since it opened its doors in 1988. Every year, the outpatient center treats more than 9,000 patients.

According to the director, Dr. Paul O’Dea, the center’s facility began expanding as volume increased — opening such additions as exam rooms and labs.

This week, Cedars opened a newly remodeled center that expanded the square footage from 52,000 to 73,000.

The newly designed space transitions out of the previous location of an underground building with 30-foot ceilings, to a space that embodies design specifically targeted to promote healing, said O’Dea.

This includes the use of natural light, attractive views, artwork and colors that have been proven to promote wellness.

Research conducted by nurses Myra Fouts and Diane Gabay, found that a patient environment designed to impart wellness and comfort was as vital to cancer care as science and technology.

When Center staff began talks about opening this new facility six years ago, the timing was perfect to embark on a complete redesign and reconstruction with a new emphasis on healing, O’Dea said.

Now, it has 13 private infusion bays, lighting panels that subtly replace the natural change of daylight during the day (rose to white to lavender), a 1,000-gallon fish tank and additional artwork that all combined ease stress, allowing patients to feel more comfortable.

“The unique area where chemotherapy is delivered centers around privacy,” said O’Dea. “Each bay is individually controlled. You hear comments ranging from ‘I’m cold’ to ‘I’m sweltering’ on one hall. Now each bay is individually controlled for thermostat.”

The hospital was careful about redesigning the new center, O’Dea said.

In 2005, it launched a patient-focused healing-design survey. The survey found the need to eliminate fluorescent lighting, white hallways and severe artwork.

Using the information, the remodel uses natural light, warm colors, and art that depicts nature. The center worked with American Art Resources, an art consulting firm to create healing environments for healthcare.

In 2007, a Patient Advisory Council made up of 12 current and former patients was organized. The council meets monthly to provide input on a number of points, including design.

“We spent a lot of time and effort with two sources of information,” said O’Dea.

“We worked closely with the architect to design with healing in mind — light and color, specific schemes and art. Patients were  involved in the entire process through the advisory board. Ultimately they are our customers,” O’Dea said.

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