Quiet room opens at Whidbey General

A 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.

After two years of 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, which was built entirely with donations at a cost of about $146,000, is perhaps the most prominent physical example of the hospital's "Patient First" program. 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. 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 who 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.

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 layout of the hospital "indicates its 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 the hospital was lacking a designated space for solitude and quiet. Significantly, no tax dollars were used at any phase of the room's construction. About 165 donors helped make the project a reality.

"It seemed to strike a chord with people in the community," Pringle said.

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

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