Marge Rogan and the Plane Tree Mission - Northport VA Medical Center
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Northport VA Medical Center


Marge Rogan and the Plane Tree Mission


Marge Rogan walks the grounds of Northport VA Medical Center as she explains the role of Planetree standards in large hospitals.

By Christopher L. Ingersoll
Friday, December 13, 2013

Veterans visiting Northport VA Medical Center (VAMC) may notice several areas of the campus have received a much needed facelift.  Throughout the hallways, there are hand-crafted murals that make the passer by feel like they are looking out of a giant window at the beautiful Northport Harbor.  Also, many of the waiting areas of building 200 have been refurnished and decorated to improve comfort and traffic flow.  The VAMC grounds have undergone dramatic transformations as well, to create environments that are serene, functional and beautiful.  The force behind these changes is Marge Rogan and her Planetree team.

Marge Rogan, a 32-year employee of Northport VAMC, has been implementing Planetree standards throughout the medical center.  Planetree is a group that creates standards, which cover every aspect of medical care to ensure that the culture of medical centers are patient-centered.  With traditional hospitals having certain smells, terminology, food, looks and interactions, Planetree seeks to alter those practices so that, in addition to top notch medical care, the whole experience of being at a medical center is healing, peaceful and supportive.  Changing the culture of a traditional medical center can be challenging, especially one with nearly 90 years of history behind it, such as Northport VAMC.  Rogan, however, believes that VA medical centers are prime candidates for changing hospital culture.

“One of the reasons I love working for the VA is that this is an organization dedicated to growth,” Rogan said.  “Many hospitals have to worry about a bottom line, while our main focus is providing top notch medical care for our nation’s heroes.  Because of that, VA medical care is constantly pushing forward to become better, and implementing Planetree standards is the next step.”

As Rogan works to implement the aesthetic portion of the Planetree standards, she says that something looking nice is not the only goal.

“There are several things that my team and I try to keep in mind as we are reworking an area,” Rogan said.  “We ask a lot of questions like; does lighting create a calm and cooling environment?  Is there a way to bring more of the outdoors inside so that the area feels more open?  Does this waiting area allow for easy movement and access for patients?  Does the way we decorate make spaces distinctive for use in way finding?  But most of all we try to look at what the patient experiences in those spaces and how we can make it better,” she added.

The Laboratory is one such project where applying the Planetree principles led to a much more functional and relaxing area in which to wait.  Previously, the arrangement of the chairs made it difficult for those with scooters or wheelchairs to navigate around.  The television was right next to the bathroom door, which created an awkward feeling for those leaving the restroom. When the lab was busy, there were not enough chairs for everyone to sit.  After the makeover, there are more chairs available and yet there is also more space to maneuver.  The TV is in a more appropriate area and the décor and color scheme creates a cool and soothing feeling.

With many areas of the hospital looking and working better, Marge continues to the implement Planetree Standards throughout every aspect of the patient experience at Northport VAMC.  The project will be ongoing, but, in the meantime, the Medical Center is looking snappier both inside and out, and for that we have Marge Rogan and her Planetree team to thank.


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