Healthcare is often a balancing act, and healthcare design relies on a similar pattern of balance of discipline and nurturing, privacy and community, and staff and patient interaction. During the renovation of the new Phase 1 Clinical Trial Center, a part of Yale New Haven Health System’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, the Shepley Bulfinch team witnessed this first hand, as we focused on the equilibrium between patient experience, logistic requirements, and staff needs central to a clinical cancer research unit.
Patients treated at clinical trial facilities are often the sickest of the sick; patients for whom traditional treatments have not been effective, and who volunteer to help test the effectiveness of new treatment methods. Such patients therefore require an additional level of care and comfort in their facilities. From the beginning of the design process, patient experience was one of our top objectives for the new space.
In past oncology projects, one of the ways we have improved patient experience is by creating peaceful environments- flooded with natural light, often involving courtyards and outdoor areas. The Phase 1 Clinical Trial Center however, provided us a design challenge in its unique setup and location. The space designated for the Center had been intended for retail or restaurant space, a first floor storefront with large windows located on a busy city street. Natural light floods the space, but we had to balance exterior views and light with patient privacy needs. We accomplished this balance by prioritizing location of infusion bays immediately next to the expansive front windows, and covering the windows with a gradient, patterned film. The film maintains privacy by making the windows opaque while allowing natural light into the space.
The Center needed to balance unique staff and logistics requirements as well. Clinical trial facilities require compliance with strict federal codes, and such spaces also have more equipment storage needs and infrastructure. The space needed to allow increased monitoring of and access to patients, and store more equipment while providing enough space for staff to meet treatment needs. Our team achieved this balance by organizing patient infusion bays around a centralized nurse station which connects directly into a medicine storage room.
Collaboration space was important to the success of the research component of the facility. However, we needed to balance the openness needed for collaboration with the privacy required to protect patient data per HIPPA regulations. We achieved balance through the inclusion of a specialized staff workspace; walls and doors lined with soundproofing materials allow the staff to discuss their work freely without the concern of audio escape.
The Smilow Cancer Hospital Phase 1 Clinical Trial Center is a physical representation of the hospital’s dedication to cancer research, and we were so proud to be part of it!