Every day, a team of expert doctors and nurses at Essentia Health’s Fargo OBGYN clinic seek to provide comfort, knowledge, and quality care. But according to Operations Manager Sara Lingwall, the clinic’s physical space has not always reflected the commitment of its providers.


With identical hard, sterile seats arranged in neat rows, Lingwall says the clinic’s waiting room felt more like an airport terminal than a place of refuge. 

“It wasn’t welcoming. It wasn’t inviting,” Lingwall said. “We want to make sure that the entire patient experience aligns with Essentia’s mission, and at the time our clinic just didn’t align with our values.” 

In 2019, Lingwall and her team decided it was time for a change. In order to provide a truly patient-centric experience, Essentia Health asked patients to provide feedback on the changes they would like to see within the clinic. Ideas ranged from integrating a variety of comfortable seating options to adding a complimentary coffee bar. 

When it was time to bring these ideas to life, Lingwall contacted InterOffice Workspace Expert Melissa LaBay. 

“Having worked with Melissa several times on smaller projects here at Essentia, we were very comfortable taking on a larger renovation together,” Lingwall said. “We have built a trusting relationship. We knew that she would have our best interests in mind.” 

Lingwall and LaBay engaged several other members of the Essentia team, including Nursing Supervisor Christy Woodard, RN, to help select furniture, fabrics, and finishes for the space. 

Together, InterOffice and Essentia Health have been able to transform the clinic into a warm, welcoming space that feels more like a living room than an airport terminal. The waiting room, which was the primary focus of the renovation, has been entirely overhauled. Now when patients enter, they have a variety of seating options to choose from, including Nemschoff Florabella lounge chairs, OFS Saven rocking chairs, and dining and counter height tables with OFS Bistro chairs. 

We knew that Melissa would have our best interests in mind.

Sara Lingwall

These pieces are arranged in several seating areas of various sizes, rather than neat rows, to provide either the privacy or community that a patient may desire. High-top tables and stools sit next to the sixth-floor clinic’s expansive wall of windows, allowing ample light to flood the space and providing patients with an expansive view of south Fargo. 

“As a designer, it is rewarding to see the clinic remodel that we completed in 2019 remain functional and beautiful through the events of the past couple years. Another bonus of this furniture variety was how it survived the unforeseen pandemic in 2020 with grace,” LaBay said. “There was no ‘graveyard’ of tandem chairs, no unsightly cautionary tape over seats warning users to space six feet apart, and no damaged upholstery like I saw in other waiting areas.” 

Warm wood accents, fluid curves, and floral-inspired patterns combine to create an environment that is modern, organic, and soothing (see page 12 for more on the benefits of biophilic design). An electric fireplace and the highly requested coffee bar bring an even greater sense of home and comfort to the waiting area. 

“Hopefully, when patients come, being here reduces some anxiety before their appointment,” Woodard said. 

LaBay and team took special care to incorporate these touches in both inpatient and outpatient spaces, creating a seamless experience for all patients. By applying complementary finishes and color palettes throughout the entire clinic, LaBay has been able to extend feelings of comfort and warmth beyond the waiting room and into the exam rooms. This has proven especially beneficial for patients who visit the clinic for high-risk pregnancy consults. 

With this newly renovated space, Essentia Health is able to provide a comfortable, quality experience on some of the most exciting–and most frightening–days of their patients’ lives. 

“We want to make all of our patients feel comfortable coming here,” Woodard said. “Having this comfortable, inviting space translates to the fact that we care about them.”