The idea: Guthrie Health’s Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa., had two very specific needs: first, to alleviate overcrowding in the emergency department and on inpatient floors caused by holding observation patients in those spaces, and second, to create an interventional radiology suite. While seemingly unrelated at first glance, the resulting space solution for each ended up fusing the two together.

Since the short-term observation patients require a similar environment as pre-/post-op interventional radiology patients—both in staffing and in infrastructure and amenities—combining the two goals into a single project proved to be the best bet. Better yet, the hospital had a former operating room being used as storage space. In a location that’s adjacent to other existing outpatient units and easily accessible to the ED while still being situated to provide the quiet the hospital was seeking, the OR proved to be an ideal space to renovate for the project.

How they did it: With Highland Associates (Clarks Summit, Pa.) providing architecture, engineering, and interior design services and Streeter Associates (Elmira, N.Y.) as contractor, the project team performed a full gut of the space, including outdated interior partitions and MEP systems, with new finishes and energy-efficient systems installed in their place.

Tracy Wescott, senior associate at Highland Associates, says attention to lighting was particularly critical because the existing bright surgical lighting wasn’t conducive to the relaxing environment being sought for observation. “They’ve found that keeping the lights lower reduces noise levels within the unit and increases patient satisfaction. Multiple switching allows staff the functionality they need for different tasks, even within the nurses’ station and interventional radiology room,” she says.

Other challenges emerged as well, including working with the local department of health to understand the space requirements, since this type of combo unit doesn’t exist in AIA guidelines. The team also had to revisit original design plans for one nurses’ station to create two instead, achieving visibility to all patient bays as well as reducing noise and allowing the unit to be zoned in off hours.

And, finally, interstitial space above the OR area required additional structural support for interior patricians, hanging ceilings, and lighting, while interstitial space below meant the team was working directly over the ICU, calling for careful project phasing.

The big reveal: The resulting 10,000-square-foot space includes 16 patient bays in a calm environment that offers individual privacy as well as space for family members and staff. Meanwhile, the interventional radiology suite itself includes modern equipment and technology with a space program that allows both patients and staff to easily flow through the unit.

Wescott says that while the design team used the hospital’s existing standards, the hospitality-inspired interiors are still what’s garnered the most positive feedback from both patients and staff who remark on the sense of quiet and calm that’s been achieved, even during peak times.

Do you have a space that's been transformed? Send a project description, and before and after photos, to Jennifer Kovacs Silvis at