Seattle Culture

Medispas: Patient Pampering at Local Hospitals

Local spas affiliated with medical centers and clinics find the sweet spot between pampering and pr

By Elaine Porterfield April 18, 2011


This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Seattle magazine.

You know where to go when things get tough: the spa. Soothing music, herbal tea, fluffy towels and a massage—your favorite pamper palace sets the mood for calm and relaxation. But more and more, those bastions of serenity are located in the last place most of us go to unwind: the hospital.

Welcome to the medical spa, a growing trend in the spa world, both in the Puget Sound region and around the country. At a hospital spa (aka medi spa), you get the same menu of goodies you’d expect at any such establishment, from bikini waxes to brow tinting, plus easy access to medical or prescription services and the highest levels of cleanliness—a dream come true for neat freaks and germophobes.

“We provide the same cleanliness standards as if someone were receiving surgery,” says Marissa Cleveland, manager of the Healthy Reflections Medical and Day Spa in Gig Harbor, part of the MultiCare system that encompasses Allenmore Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, and Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, plus more than a dozen clinics in the south Sound region. A sister spa is located in Covington; both boast the most extensive hospital spa services in the region. “Metal implements—nail files, the nippers—they’re all run through an autoclave as surgical equipment,” says Cleveland. “You can be guaranteed cleanliness at the highest level.”

Anyone can book a service at a medi spa, and rates tend to be similar to those you’d pay at a regular spa.

But what if you’re in treatment for cancer and are at risk for infections? Or you have diabetes or other chronic conditions? Or you’re constantly taking an elderly parent to a medical center for treatments and don’t have a moment in your own schedule to treat yourself?

Hospital spa professionals know how to safely provide services to clients who may have medical challenges, including individuals in cancer treatment, Cleveland says. “They can completely trust our care if, say, they have a compromised immune system. We also do a diabetic pedicure. We’re sensitive to needs of hemophiliacs [receiving] pedicures.”

For hemophiliacs, a cut can mean bleeding issues, while some diabetics must be careful because poor circulation in the extremities can lead to wounds that take a long time to heal. The spa also offers European-style facials; body wraps; injectable treatments such as Botox, Restylane and Radiance; and massage services. Specialists in oncology massage can help breast cancer patients deal with fluid retention in the arms, for example, or offer specialized care for skin affected by radiation treatments. An affiliated boutique offers wig and mastectomy fittings for patients recovering from cancer.

Unlike at the MultiCare spa, which is situated in a Northwest-style commercial development, clients enter the spa at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle through an actual hospital. But once on the ninth floor, they walk into a facility offering antioxidant repair facials and rejuvenating peels, a place where soft music plays and dimly lit treatment rooms seem pretty far removed from an operating room.
When Virginia Mason opened its medi spa in 1995, the intent was to provide complementary services for departments such as dermatology and plastic surgery, and to help patients with cosmetic needs that were a direct result of their medical care, such as cancer treatment or surgery, says Michele McCoy, manager of dermatology.

Just like their counterparts at Healthy Reflections, the licensed aestheticians at Virginia Mason Medi Spa say they provide the highest possible level of cleanliness and service, as well as a firm commitment to educating clients about caring for their skin. The aestheticians shadow dermatologists on occasion to learn about various conditions, and frequently take trainings with pharmacists about dermatological medications.

“We’re all superpassionate about the education side of it,” says aesthetician Krista Iverson. It makes for seamless care for clients, she says, including helping them with skin-care prescriptions suggested by doctors.

“Everything is charted here,” says Iverson, and the documentation is meticulous. Besides a variety of skin treatments, ranging from an individualized clinical facial to men’s facials to add-ons such as contour or oatmeal masks, the spa performs medical-grade peels, microdermabrasion, waxing, and brow and lash tinting, she says. Clients include Virginia Mason patients being treated for numerous conditions or illnesses, caregivers looking for some stress relief, teens caring for problem skin, clients referred by staff dermatologists and people looking for high-level service, Iverson says; others are family members of patients being treated by the hospital.
At University of Washington Medicine, where the medi-spa concept has been part of its Shoreline clinic since 2007, clients also have access to a full range of skin care, from facials to injectables. A facial plastic surgeon also gives consultations at the spa.

“We do use medical-grade products and services, and choose products that have evidence behind them in addition to just feeling good,” says Dr. Betsy O’Kane, the spa’s director. “Most of our patients come to see us because they want the medical environment. They want the assurance that a doctor is doing the injections and is overseeing all the products. “People like to know things are being watched over.”
All worthy reasons to visit a hospital spa. But maybe the best reason is to simply have a place to relax, free in the knowledge you’re not likely to find a more meticulous place for a facial or microdermabrasion. The hot tea and fluffy towels definitely come in second.


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