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Designed to heal: A look at the new Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

When planning for the new Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford began more than ten years ago, the design team and architects first turned not to the annals of design, but to the patient families for whom the existing hospital had become like a second home.

"Parents bring the lived experience with them. They’ve walked the walk with their children," Karen Wayman, director of the hospital's Family Advisory Council, told me. "While care teams’ lived experience is providing care and they have an invaluable perspective on the safety and efficiency of the new design, families look at it with heart. And no one else can do that."

As I describe in my story in the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, Diane Flynn, a parent leader on the hospital’s Family Advisory Council, had spent eight years in and out of the hospital with her youngest child, Matthew, who was born with a cleft lip and required multiple surgeries and specialty care in the early years of his life. As her son grew older and was spending less time in treatment, Flynn wanted to give back to Packard Children’s and decided to serve as a voice for families like hers. She attended meetings led by the design team, which included representatives from the project’s two architectural firms, hospital staff, board members, faculty and other members of the Family Advisory Council, and answered questions about what she wanted to see in the new hospital.

“It didn’t take long for us all to agree — a restorative space that felt light, healing, engaging,” Flynn said.

That feedback about the ambiance and surroundings is reflected throughout the new building. Abundant natural light, 3.5 surrounding acres of gardens and green space, and artistic representation of Northern California’s native plants and animals are unmistakable throughout the hospital.

It wasn’t just the foundational elements of the building that families helped shape – they sweat the small stuff too:

At first, the inclusion on the third floor of a life-size sculpture of a pair of hadrosaurs — the only known dinosaurs to live in Northern California — worried parents on the design committee. 'We were concerned that a dinosaur would be scary to little kids,' Flynn recalls. 'So at the suggestion of the design committee, the dinosaurs are wearing bunny slippers to make them look more friendly.'

Parents’ – and caregivers’ – input also helped shape the details of each patient room, nearly all of which are private, and resulted in the inclusion of a family lounge, laundry facilities and family kitchen on every patient floor to help families maintain day-to-day routines while they are in the hospital.

“You just don’t think about it until you walk it from a patient or parent perspective,” Flynn said.

The new hospital is scheduled to open to patients on December 9.

Previously: Stanford Medicine magazine puts spotlight on pediatric careFormer cancer patient returns to Packard Children’s to open new doors and New Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford to open in December
Photo of Matthew and Diane Flynn by Leslie Williamson

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