Valley View Hospital, Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Valley View Hospital, Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

In partnership with

HEALTHCARE DESIGN and The Center for Health Design, Starizon seeks to recognize those healthcare organizations that offer the best examples of melding healing design into their buildings while building a healthy, healing culture for their people. The blend of both is where the healing of life truly comes

alive for our patients.

Parrish Medical Center, Titusville, Florida.

Parrish Medical Center, Titusville, Florida.

Believing that emotionally engaging customer experiences are no accident, the Starizon partners have sought organizations that began with an intentional process to design unique, memorable experiences for patients based on a theme. Our winners at past HEALTHCARE DESIGN conferences have been successful in integrating a personalized experience for each patient through architecture, design, customer-centric systems, and a staff “living” the themed experience.

Specifically, the Discovery Award has recognized companies for their performance in five key “experience design” areas:

  1. Harnessing the Power of an Operational Theme

  2. Personalizing the Experience for Each Customer,

  3. Designing On- and Offstage Areas for Employees

  4. Casting and Rehearsing the “Actors” (Employees)

  5. Instilling the Company “Way” Through Inspiration

As we approach the announcement of the third in this series of Discovery Award Winners at this month’s HEALTHCARE DESIGN conference, we thought we’d share how the previous two Discovery Award winners have been working with their Experience Delivery since achieving this recognition. We spoke with Natalie Sellers, Director, Communications and Service Excellence at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida, the 2005 winner, and with Daniel Biggs, Administrative Director Human Resources, Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Parrish Medical Center

Tell us about how your theme is used at work and about integrating the theme into the places you established.

Natalie Sellers: Our theme is “Dream, Believe, Achieve.” We want our care partners and patients to dream, believe, and achieve better health. We feel we’ve been successful at that. It’s all the little things, from a lot of natural light through our skylights to our waterfalls. People from our community come to our Atrium Café just to be there for the environment. We have enhanced this with live music. By the same token we have lots of groups that come to visit us for tours and immediately notice that it is very beautiful, quiet, and peaceful. That is intentional.

What have you done specifically to achieve this in your patient areas?

Sellers: We provide a quiet, restful [healing] environment for patients. From a design perspective, we’ve made sure the hallways are carpeted; we’ve also trained our staff to speak in soft tones. We placed nursing alcoves close to the patient rooms and built special storage alcoves to store our equipment so that our hallways are not cluttered. We also did a lot with lighting. In the main corridor leading to our MRI and CT units, we put the lighting off to the side instead of directly overhead. Now patients on gurneys aren’t looking directly at harsh lights. We also provided backlit scenes in some of our ceilings.

However, the really meaningful things we’ve done to support the patient experience include My Story Post-It notes, which were rolled out earlier this year. These simple sticky notes help care partners forge an even deeper connection with patients and families. Using My Story Post-It notes, the care team asks the patient and/or family member to tell us the patient’s nickname, if he or she has a pet, kids, favorite food, and any other information they wish to share with us. Every time a care partner enters the patient’s room they can call the patient by their nickname, talk about his or her pet, children, or grandchildren, and really personalize the experience. This has been especially successful in our ICU where many of the patients can’t communicate but whose loved ones need us to know who we’re caring for. For the families the My Story Post-It notes are very meaningful and further help us realize our mission of healing experiences.

What is the newest thing you’ve added to your patient experience?

Sellers: We added the Skylight Access interactive multimedia system to every patient room. With this system patients can surf the Internet, watch more the 80 free cable channels, access pay-per-view movies, access educational videos, order room service, order on-demand housekeeping, change the room temperature, and tell us how we’re doing, all with a click of the pillow-top remote. We’ve also incorporated a service-alert feature to the system to allow for immediate service recovery. If a patient is unhappy with anything, we know right away and the entire care team works together to fix it immediately. The CARE Channel was recently added to contribute to the healing environment. This channel enables patients to select ambient scenes that can reduce stress and help them relax.

Tell us about your new outpatient building and what you’re integrating there.

Sellers: We call it the next generation healing environment. We applied what we learned from the Parrish Medical Center project and took it even further by building green. Our new outpatient center is slated to receive LEED certification. It will be among the first outpatient facilities is in the nation to achieve this distinction. We’ve included a 4.5-acre nature preserve that will be developed in cooperation with our local zoo with walking trails and educational kiosks talking about the habitat. Outside, indigenous plants were used in the landscaping to conserve water. Inside, recycled or natural materials were used as much as possible such as bamboo, stone, glass, wheat board, and others.

Tell us what you’ve done for your staff to enable them to live the theme.

Sellers: Our weekly Huddles, which we implemented about five years ago, continue to inspire our caregivers. During our Huddles we tell stories about how fellow care partners are living our vision, mission, and values. We also give them the freedom to create new ideas for our patients.

One example involves our perioperative team who care for same-day surgery patients. They decided to write personal thank-you cards to the patients. They got the physicians, anesthesiologists, nurses, housekeepers, techs—everyone involved in the care of the patient—to personally sign these cards and sent them to the patient’s home that same day. Patients love it, and now every department sends cards thanking patients for the honor and privilege of caring for them. It creates new energy and a sense of achieving something that adds personal meaning to our patients’ experience with us.

What else have you done with your staff?

Sellers: We introduced hospitality carts with comfort snacks and foods. These were intended to comfort family members holding a vigil for very ill family members, but we expanded this program to serve staff. Now these carts go up to the floors during times when staff may be too busy to take their dinner breaks. We started with cold items and have since added hot meals, which are a hit with family members and staff alike.

We also created “Healing Moment” magnets and placed them outside every patient room as a gentle reminder to us that we are here for one very special reason and that is to care for patients and family. Care partners have been trained that upon seeing the magnet, they should pause before entering the room, take a brief moment of refreshment for themselves, and then enter the room ready to give loving care. The magnets also generate opportunities for our care partners to tell family and visitors the meaning of the magnets, which then involves the families in our mission.

Have you done anything special with offstage areas or with staff training?

Sellers: Each area of the hospital has created its own staff spaces, following the guidelines requiring that these spaces be out of sight and away from patient care and family areas. Some staff bring in their own art and music for these areas; we’ve not restricted them in any way. Finally, we conduct “presence training” for staff that focuses on caring for the caregiver. We take them on a personal journey of rediscovery. The goal is to give our care partners the mind, body, and spirit support they need to be present for their patients, coworkers, and families. It is like a retreat but focused on the individuals to help them rejuvenate and reconnect with themselves. The sessions include meditation, storytelling, humor, crafts, and other activities. At the end of the sessions, everyone leaves feeling refreshed and with a renewed sense of purpose.

Valley View Hospital

Tell us about how people are reacting to your facility as it relates to the theme you’ve chosen.

Daniel Biggs: It has truly been all we could have hoped for and more. Countless visitors, patients, and family members have expressed awe at how beautiful the facility is and how good it makes them feel. They remark that the facility is restful. From the café now located in our magnificent lobby, offering a place to sit, relax, and get “centered,” to the patient rooms where musicians can come and go if a patient wishes, or pet therapy visits can occur—our audiences are thrilled with our approach.

How has this environment affected the staff?

Biggs: The environment encourages staff to perform differently when the setting is geared towards their own personal needs. Nursing stations are now near the patient rooms. There are comfortable chairs near the stations and many amenities and tools immediately at nurses’ disposal.

While the new work environments are extraordinary, they do not in and of themselves make the difference. Recently, we were recognized by JD Power and Associates for outstanding patient experience. The patient experiences referenced as qualification for the award came from an older part of the hospital, demonstrating that it really takes great people to make the experience great. When we received the award, it really meant a lot to the staff.

Did you do anything special to engage the staff?

Biggs: We started by measuring almost all of what we do against our theme of Personalize, Humanize, and Demystify. In other words, if what we do doesn’t support one or more aspects of our theme, then we don’t do it. We took all staff on an overnight retreat where we talked about who we are, what we believe, and how we could use the words Personalize, Humanize, and Demystify as our theme and philosophy to do this work. This immersion continues today in new and innovative retreats that focus on the patient and employee experiences. Using this same process to inspire staff to focus on themselves, believing as we do in “healer heal thyself,” really conveys the message that not only are we committed to patient-centered care, but also to employee-centered care. We put all staff through this training in small groups of 15 or so. We use Spirit of Caring awards, which allow staff to nominate peers for recognition to reinforce the behaviors we are looking for. We also use storytelling at the beginning of every meeting to honor and recognize the desired behavior. Many stories focus on who we are and caring for each other and our patients.

One very important factor is maintaining high recruitment standards—we pass on a person that does not meet our standards of caring, even if his or her credentials are right. On average we’ll pass on five people before we find the right person.

We also created guides to help each staff member in work/life balance situations, to lift burdens from staff when we can. These guides help with everything from assisting a staff member who is struggling to pay bills, to “Sandwich Generation” issues such as kids struggling in school or day-care worries. We have provided staff with ways to relax, such as ski passes, golf passes, and the like.

How about onstage/offstage areas?

Biggs: Several of our employees, on their own initiative, converted one of our rooms into a sanctuary where employees from all departments can go to relax and rejuvenate, even if only for a moment. It can make all the difference. In this room, massages are offered, aromatherapy is provided, and healing music calms the caregivers, preparing them for the remainder of the day. It is a sacred place for our employees. We have a garden for staff featuring a quiet break area. We’ve got live music there, as well. In staff break areas, we’ve allowed the staff to have some liberties—for example, in one area, a lab employee who is an artist painted a wall mural of a mountain scene. The room doesn’t have windows, but it now offers the illusion of being outside. Our offstage areas for staff are appointed as nicely as our onstage areas for patients and families.

Onstage, we have people stopping in the halls to watch the artwork changing throughout the building. We place art from local artists, staff, and patients (some for sale, some not), and change it every couple of weeks; this really causes people to slow down and reflect. Also, our Planetree library is used extensively by patients, families, and staff. The library offers many health and healing related publications plus literature searches provided by the librarian if staff or patients can’t find time themselves to visit.

Do you have any inspirational features you’d like to share with us?

Biggs: We have our volunteers, who crochet and knit, make individual, personalized shawls for patients. We hold a short, personalized, inspiring ceremony for individual patients as encouragement and a sign of hope. Staff really look forward to these ceremonies. As a nurse notices the patient is in need of something just a little extra, she is able to obtain a shawl, attach a card, and carry it into the patient room, reading the inspiring words from the card while carefully and lovingly placing the shawl around the shoulders of the patient. The nurse explains that while here in our hospital or at home, any time the patient feels in need of warmth or an embrace, he or she can place this handmade shawl around his or her shoulders and feel our caring and concern. This brief moment extends our ability to care well beyond the patient’s stay in our hospital.

What has been the focus of the past year?

Biggs: We have focused much more time on onstage/offstage. We now have uniforms in many areas, we respond with key words and phrases, and we’ve really expanded our focus on transition areas so patients and families feel the connectivity between public areas and private areas. We have complimentary valet services at multiple locations; the valets not only park the car but also personally guide the patient or guest to their destination. There are patient guides who greet patients at the door, walk them through the registration process, then guide them to where they need to be. We don’t take for granted that our wayfinding will help transition through our hospital, and we try to make it as personal as we can.

In general, these Discovery Award winners have truly led the industry in integrating the power of healing places and people. Starizon is pleased to have helped advance this work. HD

Leigh Adamson is Chief Development Officer and Mark Scott is Principal Innovator at Starizon. Starizon provides organizations expert guidance needed to explore, design, and implement compelling experiences. Contact the authors at 970.262.2123 or and, or visit

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