Alison Grann, M.D., knows that cancer treatment is “a very difficult journey” for patients. And while the latest technology and machinery can improve outcomes, making that journey “as peaceful as possible” is one of the keys to successful treatment.
“There has been a lot of literature published recently about how being in a soothing environment helps people heal,” says Dr. Grann, who chairs the Department of Radiation Oncology at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. “I totally believe that.”
That’s why this past October; Saint Barnabas introduced a number of enhancements to its department, which now has touches of home alongside state-of-the-art treatment. Over seven months, the waiting room, dressing and examination rooms and nurses’ stations were redesigned. The result: “a more peaceful experience” for patients with cancer, Dr. Grann says. Two local cancer advocacy groups provided most of the funding for renovation. First, the Flo Okin Cancer Relief Foundation in Springfield provided money to renovate the dressing rooms and waiting area.
“We significantly expanded the dressing-room space, and the waiting room is more homelike—it even has a fireplace,” says Dr. Grann, adding that other changes include more comfortable chairs and “less industrial-looking” carpeting.
The other local group was Comfort Project 360, a new charity formed by two local women whose lives have been affected by cancer. (See “the Power of Comfort” in the June–July issue of Morris/Essex Health & Life.) It provided funding to renovate four exam rooms and a further expansion of the original project.
“All four of our exam rooms are now more like sitting areas in a home, and our department features new tables, wood flooring, pendant lighting, wall sconces and wallpaper,” Dr. Grann says.
But with all these structural changes, the project still needed to go further “to make the environment as peaceful as possible, to minimize the ‘hospital’ feeling and help the patient feel treated in a more holistic way,” says the doctor.
That’s why Comfort Project 360 is raising money for life-affirming artwork, more wellness programs, healthy snacks and water bottles in the waiting areas and “gift bags” of small necessities for patients undergoing radiation, such as skin and hair care products. A side project called Comfy Couture, started by a daughter of one of the Comfort Project 360 founders, is fundraising for new robes designed by the high-end lingerie company Cosabella.
“Our current patients say it’s a completely different building, and new patients say that if you have to be a patient, it’s a very comfortable place,” Dr. Grann says. “Our radiation therapists, physics staff, social workers, nurses, support staff and everyone here have always gone above and beyond to make treatment as easy as possible, and this is a tangible change that will help all of us do our jobs better every day.”