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‘The Healing Space’ uses technology to create a place of respite for patients, families and staff

New space developed by VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center offers holistic healing for “mind, body and spirit,” says program leader.

Rendering of a room that has a curved wall with a big screen on it is playing a nature video. Two people are in the room, one is a woman who is standing with a man who is in a wheelchair. Rendering of The Healing Space in VCU Health’s Adult Outpatient Pavilion. (Hawkins Roman Architects)

By Annie Harris

Finding a quiet place in a hospital can be difficult, especially if you’re in back-to-back appointments or caring for a sick loved one.

A new space in VCU Health’s Adult Outpatient Pavilion was developed to help individuals find peace in a busy and sometimes stressful environment.

Featuring a 9-by-16-foot curved LED display wall, hidden speakers and customizable lighting, The Healing Space creates an immersive and calming environment that’s completely customizable to visitors’ needs. Patients, caregivers and VCU Health team members can select from a variety of soundscapes or videos representing diverse nature settings, with light and sound syncing up to create the sense of immersion in the scene.

The room is the brainchild of VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center’s board members and volunteer leaders Terrell Harrigan, Becky Massey and Shelly Arthur, and implemented with support from the Integrative Health department.

“The Healing Space stands out above and beyond what is offered at other cancer centers,” said Harrigan, who with her husband, Elliott, donated funds to support the construction of the room. “It makes me really happy to know we’ve got this space that our patients, staff and families can find as a place of healing, whatever healing they need – in spirit, mind and body.”


Where mindfulness and medicine meet

The planning team envisions endless possibilities to add on to the current functionalities of the unique elliptical space, such as mindfulness-based interventions and yoga, some of which have been shown to help with anxiety and depressive symptoms during different phases of cancer treatment. They also see opportunities to use it for research to enhance and advance the holistic care of Massey patients.

“We are excited about the programmatic and research opportunities in The Healing Space,” said Masey Ross, M.D., director of Massey's Integrative Health Program and an oncologist specializing in breast cancer. “We hope to collect data as we go, through patient-reported outcomes and other methods, to demonstrate the impact on patient and staff well-being in real time, which will generate more ideas for creative uses for the space.”

Data collected from The Healing Space can help Massey researchers identify key factors that can make dealing with the burden of cancer easier. This information can then help identify the specific needs, values and experiences associated with being a cancer survivor and how to address them to improve quality of life and future cancer outcomes.

“This is just part of the expectation of what a comprehensive cancer center really is,” said Becky Massey, volunteer leader and chair of the Massey Advisory Board. “It’s exciting, it’s groundbreaking, it’s unique, it is the most fabulous advance that we’ve had in integrative health in a long time.”

Three women standing together smiling

Shelly Arthur, Terrell Harrigan and Becky Massey led the development of The Healing Space. (VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center)