Behind the Design: Bethany Children’s Health Center Outpatient Tower

Since its beginning in 1898, Bethany Children’s Health Center has emerged as a national leader in pediatric rehabilitation and complex care cases. The demand for outpatient services and the expertise of their providers has caused them to outgrow their space, potentially leaving children without the care they need to heal. The services at Bethany Children’s aren’t contained at the facility either—they also impact healthcare across the state of Oklahoma through their training programs. To alleviate their growing wait list and capacity limits, Bethany Children’s Health Center asked REES to build a new outpatient facility so their providers can continue offering a high level of care and service.

The four-story, 210,000-square-foot Outpatient Tower will include an outpatient therapy and rehabilitation center. It also includes an advanced technologies and seat lab that designs custom wheelchairs for patients, physician offices and numerous specialty services. The ground floor of the facility will be a place for community support services. A multipurpose room provides an immersive theater experience, and a conference center supports collaboration and training, furthering the hospital’s national reputation in pediatric rehabilitation care.

Groundbreaking for the tower took place on May 2, 2024. As REES celebrates this milestone and the start of construction, here’s an inside look at our process and priorities for designing children’s healthcare facilities.

Potential for Growth

Recognizing the urgent need for the services they provide throughout Oklahoma and the surrounding states, Bethany Children’s identified areas of expansion that would allow them to address their future needs. They decided to focus on outpatient services, community wellness and outreach programs. They also committed to continuing specialized services for those requiring varying levels of care. REES began working with Bethany Children’s on a masterplan project of what this facility could be. The team worked alongside a series of strategy and theming consultants to determine the location, size and scope of the project. During planning sessions, the team picked a design with a single building that centralized their departments. The Outpatient Tower will double the current operating space of the facility, ensuring innovative, medical care for thousands of children and their families each year.

Collaborative Creative Teams

REES designed the Outpatient Tower in collaboration with Storyland Studios, a firm that partners with brands and agencies to create environments and immersive experiences. They are known for providing consulting, concept development, guest experiences and more for clients like Disney, Universal Studios and Lego. They joined the design team to help create a joyful themed experience for the kids and families receiving services at the hospital. Throughout the design process, creative teams at both REES and Storyland worked together to integrate the central theme into the public-facing areas and clinical healthcare spaces. To explore theme possibilities, two of our team members joined Storyland on a trip to Orlando. They visited an urgent care clinic that partnered with Storyland Studios, toured Disney locations like Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and observed theming concepts at Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit resort that offers Disney vacations to critically ill children and their families at no cost. The collaborative research left our team inspired to design a healthcare facility unique to Oklahoma.

Shaping a Sense of Place

Located along Route 66, the two design teams saw the chance to dream up metaphors about each child’s journey receiving care at Bethany Children’s Health Center. Leveraging imagery and icons from the historic route, children that may never get to travel can start in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then stop by the Blue Whale of Catoosa. Afterward, they can visit with the dinosaurs out west before ending at the Santa Monica pier. Outside the facility, a four-story “Cal the Caterpillar” spans the hospital’s entrance, serving as a great roadside attraction along historic Route 66. Cal supports the vision that patients will be transformed and soar into the next phase of their journey from their experiences at the Outpatient Tower.

Not only will the Outpatient Tower be a center of excellence with leading-edge technology and equipment, but it will also continue to establish Bethany Children’s as a national leader in pediatric rehabilitative care. When the Outpatient Tower at Bethany Children’s Health Center is completed, we will be excited to see patients and families experience a facility built with kids’ wonder and imagination in mind.

To see how REES is designing other patient-centric healthcare facilities, click here for more projects.