Nature’s Healing Impact: Improving the Healthcare Experience

WINCHESTER, Va. — The Valley Health Cancer Center is new cancer treatment center at the Winchester Medical Center (a 450­-bed regional hospital).

The 49,397 SF facility consolidates all the medical center’s cancer services into one freestanding building, allowing for more seamless and coordinated treatment for patients.

The designers, Perkins+Will, used nature as the inspiration for the team’s design approach. As this is a rural community, most patients already feel a connection with the land, as they live and work among the verdant green hills and farms of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Visual and physical connections to nature have been shown to have a soothing effect on patients and to foster patient wellness. The cancer center is situated on the site to take advantage of natural views, including a picturesque lake that is visible from the main entry spine.

One unusual cancer center feature is its healing garden, which can be accessed from the building via accessible pathways. The garden is viewed from inside the building ­ including from the treatment areas of the infusion center. Inside the glass entry tower is a living plant wall, which brings the natural world inside the building.

Natural daylight has consistently been found to promote better patient outcomes and staff satisfaction. The design maximized exterior windows at corridors, waiting rooms, and staff areas. The large windows in the infusion bays along the south side of the building create a light-­filled department (which can be modulated for patient needs.) Although not every exam room or interior space has direct access to a window, the clerestory windows bring refreshing daylight deep into the core.

The building’s connection with the natural world provides a soothing and holistic approach to patient health.