Making patient spaces better, how environments can affect our wellbeing.
Last updated: March 2021
At a recent appointment, I was in the patient lounge which is an internal waiting room with very limited, to no natural light. At first, I was a little taken back when I was asked if I wanted to wait outside. I felt like I was being dismissed. It does have a lovely city view which I have come to appreciate. There is scientific evidence that nature elements can promote healing.1 It is definitely more open than the internal meeting room/lounge. The issue that I have with it is that it is a shared space with patients, research staff and scientists often with people eating lunch or lots of internal discussion. It does not always feel like a place of healing or tranquility. The positive is that there is lots of science discussion and you get quite a lot in that space.
How to create a better patient space?
This had me thinking about how might we create a better, sterile patient spaces? Would a spruce up of our environment help? What would you like to see in your patient space? What makes you feel better? If I had to go with a pie in the sky daydream, I would go with more natural light, while I understand there would be some concerns with privacy and having recently had an injection in my lower hip to test my adrenals for a possible prednisone dosage decrease. I probably don't want to have that done in front of a window or a wall of glass, as there would be exposed skin that I would prefer not to have on display.
I want to feel the warmth of sunny days and some light. I think there is nothing worse that gray and gray, or the harsh fluorescent lights bouncing off of grab walls. I think of this being similar to the blue on blue print of hospital gowns. If we got to wear cozy pajamas or other comfortable clothing, would we feel more comfortable and at ease in healthcare environments?
There are case studies that have show healthcare facilities having great success when they were designed using “evidence-based design principles that were applied to building a patient-centered health facility that focuses on the ideas that patient heal better when their physical and comfort is maximized.” An example would be Mills-Peninsula Medical Centre,2 “Patients recover more quickly if they have views of nature." remarks Kevin Day, senior architect from Anshen + Allen.2
How do we think beyond germs and fall risks and think about healing?
I am definitely all for spaces that promote both safety and healing. I can't tell you the number of times I have tripped over chairs that are awkwardly placed or areas that are desolate, or even the tears I have shed in environments that have not been supportive. To flip the problem, “hospital/healthcare design that minimizes environmental stressors and fosters exposure to stress reducing or restorative features should advance improved outcomes.”3,4 There is evidence that suggest the need for healthcare environments to be flexible. Every visit is unique and our needs will be different each time, our care may be different, our reason for being there may be different each time.5 If our environment can support these needs, we may have better outcomes and I would suspect more positive experiences.
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