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Cancer Center remodel complete in Albert Lea

Mayo Clinic Health System — along with private donors, nonprofit organizations and the Naeve Health Care Foundation — have recently invested $700,000 into the Cancer Center in Albert Lea in an effort to make the facility a more healing environment for its patients.

The emphasis of the renovations, which will be on display at an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, was the chemotherapy suites.

Tricia Dahl, operations administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said patients previously were lined up in a row and there really wasn’t much space for family to come sit beside their loved ones. At times, nurses felt they were stepping over family members to do their jobs.

An InSight Video Audio Interpreter has been added to the patient education room at the Cancer Center at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, which allows patients access to the research staff in Rochester without the burden of traveling. Kelly Wassenberg/Albert Lea Tribune

Dahl said the change to semi-private chemo suites makes it more conducive for nurses to do their jobs in a way that isn’t so intrusive on the patient or their family. It also allows patients to enjoy more privacy, whether they decide to talk with their family members, relax or utilize one of the iPads the facility will lend them during their appointment.

“I think it’s also important to remember that it’s not just the patient we’re taking care of,” nurse practitioner Sydney Schone said. “We’re taking care of the family.”

She said it’s important to have the patient’s family there to support the patient and help them make some of the life-changing decisions that come with cancer treatment. She feels the new changes at the facility encourage that.

Cancer Center patient Lonny Thostenson, 54, of Geneva sees the value in the increased amount of privacy offered with the new changes.

“It’s a sad time in life,” Thostenson said, noting some dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment feel depressed and can seem withdrawn. He said the heightened amount of privacy allows those patients to not feel obligated to speak with someone sitting beside them if they’d rather not.

Thostenson himself said he could handle things either way. He’s on his third round of treatment for his rectum/colon cancer and said his prognosis will likely mean that he will require long-term treatment. He takes everything in stride, but says he appreciates the more peaceful chemo suites that have been made possible by the renovations.

Other items included in the remodeling project included adding a fireplace to the waiting room, moving the chemotherapy bathrooms to a more discreet location, making the radiation therapy rooms more handicap accessible and the purchase of an InSight Video Audio Interpreter for the patient education room.

Oncology nurse Kellie Peterson said the Insight interpreter, which allows patients to Skype with research staff in Rochester, helps people in rural areas have better access to research treatments and different trials that may be available to them.

“Many times when they are on research it requires a lot of trips to Rochester, and people will forego it because they can’t do all the traveling,” Peterson said.

“We’re continuing to commit to our outpatient practice that we have in Albert Lea,” Dahl said of the overall project. “It’s really an important part of what we do, and it’s the direction that health care is going. By reinvesting in the Cancer Center, we hope that demonstrates our commitment to the community to take care of these patients.”