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Dr. Rita McWilliams' Unique Office Environment

05/25/2016 03:47PM ● By Sandie Tillery

Comfort Zone

June, 2016
By Sandie Tillery
Photo: Jeannine Hendrickson

Forget cold and clinical when thinking about going to the doctor’s office. More and more medical offices greet patients with warm and inviting color palettes, fish tanks and artwork. Rita McWilliams, doctor of audiology, however, has taken a unique approach to her interior design with help from daughters Morgan Simko and Kirsten McWilliams. Many doctors have upgraded their waiting and exam rooms to reflect a modern movement in marketing, where patient-centered care includes the environment, a sense of welcome and comfort from the moment they enter the office until they leave.

Dr. McWilliams celebrated a grand opening at her new offices in Redding on June 1, 2013, after many years in an older building nearby. 

Daughter Morgan, who is working toward a master’s degree in interior design, guided the design project that was inspired by her sister’s idea to create something similar to Disneyland’s Main Street, USA. 

A red, white and blue color scheme in the waiting room welcomes patients into a celebration of American heritage, with framed replicas of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. An old quilt top on display and a framed flour sack that came from the doctor’s great-grandfather’s flour mill, along with other memorabilia, create a museum-like experience. 

Beyond the door leading to a common area, exam rooms and more office space, patients feel transported back in time to early 20th century Main Street. Murals covering both walls depict storefronts found in any small American town. Park benches and street lights continue the theme. Each office and exam room has been decorated (some still works in progress) like such favorite places as a barber shop and sweet shop. Dr. McWilliams’ own handmade quilts grace the walls along the back hallway. It is not uncommon for patients to comment, “I remember when…” 

Dr. McWilliams has served patients for 31 years with a desire to “treat every one as if they were a member of my own family.” She says of her specialty, “I change lives.” Those with moderate to severe hearing loss get to hear again things they have missed. She strives in the most pleasant environment to help her patients relearn how to communicate as they learn to hear better. She says she gives an honest assessment without high pressure in a professional and friendly setting. Daughter Kirsten attends University of Pacific in San Francisco working on her doctorate in audiology and plans to join her mother’s practice when she’s done.

Morgan, who works with her mother while completing her master’s degree online, says they enjoy the impact of their decor as it helps them connect with their patients, especially the silver-haired ones who sometimes say they would like to just keep walking on down Main Street and memory lane. Dr. McWilliams’ patients respond with enthusiasm to her friendly and whimsical decor without losing the sense of coming to a professional business. Says Simko, “We want them to leave with knowledge and a memorable experience.”