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Quiet Room opens at Whidbey General Hospital

Whidbey General Hospital
Whidbey General Hospital's new Quiet Room was designed to be spot of solitude a reflection in a busy hospital.
— image credit: Rick Levin

A gorgeous new addition to Whidbey General Hospital will afford patients and their families a quiet place to meditate, pray or simply seek needed respite from the stress and strain of everyday life.

Over two years in construction, the Quiet Room finally opens to the public Monday, following a Sunday reception and dedication at 3 p.m. for donors and hospital staff.

This new facility at WGH, which was designed by architect Jackson Carter and built entirely by donations at a cost of about $146,000, is perhaps the most prominent physical example of the hospital’s “Patient First” program, a guiding philosophy prompting health providers to take a holistic, “whole patient” approach to medical care and treatment.

Located just off the hospital’s new main entrance, the Quiet Room is a gentle, cylindrical structure with high ceilings and rounded plaster walls painted in muted beige tones. There are no sharp edges, nothing to jar the senses. An intricate lacing of slatted woodwork slopes overhead like an unraveling helix.

A number of strategically placed windows in the room — some just small slits of glass and one that runs from floor to ceiling — allow different nuances of light into the room as it revolves around the sun. Just outside will be a fountained pond, fed solely by rainwater.

According to Anne Pringle, president of the Whidbey Island Hospital Foundation which raised money for the project, the whole idea of the room is to inspire peace, quiet and spiritual mediation for individuals of all faiths.

“The idea was to have a room where people could get away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital,” Pringle said Wednesday. “It’s very private.”

Elaine Carty, a nurse who specializes in infection control and also runs the hospital’s spiritual care program, said the room was uniquely designed to promote peace of mind in an environment that isn’t always conducive to such states. “Sometimes people are in the hospital for happy things, but the majority of the time it’s pretty stressful,” she said, adding that during trying times patients and their families need to remove themselves to a calm, comfortable space.

“This is a place where you can come and be a part of that and look for some inspiration and comfort,” Carty said. “It’s just supposed to be a very comfortable room.”

She said the smaller windows in the circular room were meant to afford privacy as well as light, so people don’t feel like they’re in a “fishbowl.” However, the rounded walls do have an added philosophical significance.

“It’s a circle of life,” Pringle said, noting that the room’s prominence in the overall lay-out of the hospital “indicates it’s importance.”

Once completely furnished, the Quiet Room will contain a number of cozy chairs that can be moved around as needed, as well as a specially designed cabinet that will contain a number of spiritual objects such as a cross. Organizers also are considering putting in a CD player for music. The ceiling lighting, yet to be put installed, will be soft and unobtrusive.

Pringle said Whidbey General CEO Scott Rhine and other staff members first conceived of the idea a few years back, when it was noted that the hospital was lacking a designated space for folks to seek solitude and quiet. After the plans were drawn up, the money was raised within a year’s time, Pringle said, with money coming from staff, churches, corporate donors and individuals. Significantly, no tax dollars were used at any phase of the room’s construction. About 165 donors in all helped make the project a reality.

“It seemed to strike a chord with people in the community,” Pringle said. “This is an effort that was greeted very well. The community was very enthusiastic about it.”

Pringle reserved extra special praise for Bob Wolfe, who chaired the Quiet Room committee and who, Pringle added, was “the real driver” behind the fundraising effort. Along with such tireless workers as WGH nurse Patsy Kolesor, WGH building supervisor Dave Riley, interior designer Julie Joselyn and countless others throughout the community who donated their time and money, the committee was able to bring the whole project to fruition.

Alexandria Louden, executive director for the hospital foundation, said she’s been amazed at the support that has gathered behind the idea of the Quiet Room. “There have been so many people who have volunteered to work on this,” she said, adding that folks ran the gamut of fundraising activities from bake sales to bringing power-point presentations to various corporate sponsors and organizations.

However, Louden said the most important donation the committee received was from a little girl who gave a single dollar, which the Tooth Fairy had left under her pillow.

By the time of Sunday’s reception, a series of plaques will hang outside the Quiet Room with a full list of donors’ names etched in glass.

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