Business

Virginia Mason getting a fresh look

Federal Way Virginia Mason staff, from left, Sue Terhaar, Nancy Heier, Theresa Walker, Chris Bartlett, Dr. Gordon Naylor, Deb Whitaker, Eileen Dupras, Margaret Berewer and Kari Steadman pose in one of 21 rooms in the pediatric department that have been redecorated with an endangered species theme. - Jacinda Howard
Federal Way Virginia Mason staff, from left, Sue Terhaar, Nancy Heier, Theresa Walker, Chris Bartlett, Dr. Gordon Naylor, Deb Whitaker, Eileen Dupras, Margaret Berewer and Kari Steadman pose in one of 21 rooms in the pediatric department that have been redecorated with an endangered species theme.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard

Federal Way’s Virginia Mason Medical Center pediatric department is beginning to look a bit like a jungle, the Antarctic pole and the deep sea.

The center has started redecorating several of its treatment rooms with an endangered species theme. Doctors, and their medical teams, have all come together to choose animals that will peak children’s interests. Photos and information about the uncommon breeds are located inside each room. The goal of the project is to leave patients feeling calm and at-ease, as well as give kids a little pearl of wisdom about the world beyond the clinic’s walls.

“I started thinking like a patient,” clinical services representative Eileen Dupras said. “What would I want if I came to a medical clinic?”

Twenty-one rooms at the facility are being overhauled. Each room is dedicated to a specific rare animal. Pandas, mountain gorillas, emperor penguins, sea turtles, macaw parrots, orcas, dart frogs, snow leopards, Asian elephants, manatees and okapis — a mammal in the giraffe family that displays a velvet-brown body and zebra-striped legs — are among the many animals children visiting Virginia Mason have the chance to learn about.

“It’s important to think about the future of these animals,” Dupras said.

Some of the animals, such as the critically endangered mountain gorilla, are so rare only about 700 of the breed remain, according to an African Wildlife Foundation Web page, www.awf.org/content/wildlife/detail/mountaingorilla. Children are able to learn facts such as this while they wait to be treated.

“They are taking something from the rooms with them,” Dupras said.

The project has staff excited.

“We’re all learning,” she said.

The okapi and its 15 to 18-inch tongue is a big hit.

“It’s the only mammal that can take its tongue and clean its own ear,” clinic director Margaret Berewer said.

The project has been in the making for two years and is expected to be complete by year’s end. The transformation process involves painting cream-colored rooms a striking blue color on top, with the cream on bottom. Two to three professional photographs are framed and placed on each rooms’ walls. Accompanying information completes the look. Educational books will follow. Each space requires approximately $325 to complete.

Choosing which photos to display is the hardest part of the effort, staff said. Photos that clearly show the creatures and many that depict the rare breeds holding their young are bountiful. Images that will make the children feel calm, teach them about the endangered species and introduce color into the rooms are preferred, Dupras said.

A photo of two snow leopards lying next to each other in the Himalayan Mountains, which was captured with a motion-censored camera due to the extreme elevation, was the first photo to be placed as part of the undertaking.

“That’s been the thing, finding the right picture,” Dupras said.

After the treatment rooms are completed, staff will begin redecorating the medical center’s waiting area.

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