Rooms Filled with Care

A new dedicated oncology unit will provide for the safety and comfort of both patients and families well into the future.

Everyone who met Alice Burke liked her.

“She had a welcoming and nurturing approach toward people,” says her daughter Kathy. “She was strong, supportive, had a wonderful sense of humor, and cherished her family. She was Dad’s life partner both at home and in the family business. She confronted her diagnosis with spirit and conviction.”

Alice’s diagnosis was cancer. She battled the disease at Mary Greeley Medical Center. The large Burke family frequently gathered in Alice’s room during her extended stay on the Oncology Unit, and on more than one occasion, Alice wished aloud that the rooms could be larger.

“When Mom died, Dad proposed the construction of a family suite, expanding the regular room size to double and adding amenities that would allow family members to stay in the room with the patient,” Kathy says. “Dad hoped that by expanding the room, the environment could become more home-like.”

In 1993, Bill Burke, Sr. made his wife’s wish a reality by making a gift in her memory to the Mary Greeley Medical Center Foundation to support the construction of the Burke Family Suite. Since then, countless families have experienced the benefits of the Burke family’s vision.

Today, plans for a new Oncology Unit are included in the hospital’s Extraordinary Visions building project. The new unit will incorporate three family suites, thanks to the Burke family’s generous gift in support of the construction.

Fifth Floor Rendering

An architectural rendering of the dedicated oncology floors
shows patient rooms (light green), family suites (dark green), the outpatient treatment suite (purple), staff areas (yellow), elevators (red),
and lobby, reception and waiting areas (blue).

Space for Families

Cancer care involves families as well as patients. “Especially in oncology, we have a lot of families who stay overnight with our patients, including loved ones and kids,” says Sue Scoles, R.N., B.S.N., director of Oncology Services at Mary Greeley. “All of our new rooms will be larger and provide more space to accommodate families, but our three Burke Family Suites will be special.”

The family suites will be approximately twice the size of a regular room and will include a kitchenette, an additional bathroom, a separate living space for families and other amenities. The suites will be used when a patient is facing extended hospitalization or could otherwise benefit from the larger family environment.

“The current Burke Family Suite is almost always full,” says Scoles. “Multi-generational family celebrations are a common occurrence. We are indebted to the Burke family for their foresight into the needs of families and patients and are grateful for their support of the new family suites.”

In addition, the Burke Family Suites will feature a positive airflow environment, providing more positive air exchanges per hour—a vital protection for acute patients with compromised immune systems.

“The positive air rooms will maintain the flow of air out of the room, protecting patients from contaminants and pathogens. This will be especially beneficial for patients getting ready for bone marrow or stem cell transplants because it reduces the risk of infection,” says Scoles.

A Healing Environment

The length of stay for oncology patients averages 5.9 days in the hospital—compared to 4.2 days for all patients—and the need to create a better healing environment is essential.

“Research shows a positive healing environment reduces stress and anxiety and promotes recovery,” says Scoles “making the direct access from the Oncology Unit to the rooftop garden ideal for our patients and their families.”

The new rooftop garden will be accessible to all patients, visitors and staff from the fifth floor of the new patient tower. The garden will not only provide accessibility to the calming and rejuvenating effects of being in nature, but also provide respite for quiet reflection and a place to gather with loved ones.

All About Oncology Care

The fifth floor of the new patient tower will be dedicated solely to oncology. In addition to providing inpatient care, the unit will also feature a four-chair outpatient suite for patients who need to come to the hospital for blood or blood-product infusions.

“Because the care we provide requires particular expertise — chemotherapy administration and delivery of care to patients with side effects of chemotherapy including low immune system function — having a dedicated unit means our nursing and support staff can specialize to best serve the needs of patients with cancer,” says Joseph Merchant, M.D., with McFarland Clinic’s oncology and hematology department. “Enhanced staff skill means better—and safer—care for our patients. It means better outcomes, especially in the cases where we are taking care of complex diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. It also means we attract and build a staff with the compassion to care for cancer patients, an area of medicine that is full of emotional challenges for families and other caregivers.”

The location on the fifth floor also provides flexibility with space, allowing the medical center to change as cancer care changes and stay current with advances in care.

“Mary Greeley has made a big investment in the long-term excellence of their cancer program,” says Merchant. “Many patients and families will benefit immensely from the thoughtful way this unit has been designed.”

The William R. Bliss Cancer Center provides patients with a full range of services, from the detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, to follow-up and survivorship care, at a single location. The Center’s integrated and comprehensive care is provided by a team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons and the Cancer Resource Center. The Cancer Resource Center services include a patient navigation program, cancer genetic counseling, survivorship programs, cancer support groups, clinical trials, a library of resources and a boutique offering swimwear, breast prostheses and a complimentary wig and head covering program. The Cancer Resource Center will remain on the second floor of the medical center’s north addition.

For more information about the Extraordinary Visions building project or to take a virtual tour, visit