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Patient Care Addition Update • February/March 2009

Healing Environments Are Top of Mind in Design of Patient Spaces

While the Patient Care Addition is the most visible component of Northwest Community Hospital’s major redevelopment initiative, every aspect of the design of patient spaces has been rethought to encourage healing.

This includes the use of natural light, open space in atriums and walkways, noise reduction, patient privacy and control over their environment. It may also entail healing gardens, therapeutic art and sculpture, environmentally friendly “green” design, and much more (see NCH benchmarks below).

This emphasis on healing design is recognition that patients’ surroundings affect their well-being. The goal is to turn into reality research findings on the impact of the environment on patients’ physical and psychological health, thus creating a health facility that reduces patient stress, utilizes fewer medications and promotes rapid recovery.

According to the evidence, there are three primary ways in which the environment can influence patient outcomes:1

  1. Medical care: The environment can support or hinder caregiver actions and medical interventions, making it easier or more difficult for clinicians to do their jobs while facilitating helpful or harmful impacts. One example is how carpeting reduces the potentially stressful noise of health care workers moving about in the patient’s room.
  2. Health status: The environment may strengthen or impair patients’ health status and personal characteristics by alleviating or exacerbating existing conditions and patients’ personal strengths. One example is that loss of sleep due to noise in the post-operative setting may prolong recovery time.
  3. Causes of illness: The environment can protect patients from or expose them to causes of illness. Circulation of ultra-clean air may protect hospitalized patients from debilitating or even fatal hospital-borne infections.

Like other supporters of healing design, NCH believes its design of a patient-centered, therapeutic facility will attract more patients, help recruit staff and even play a role in reducing expenses.

Key cost-cutting impacts of healing designs include shorter lengths of stay, lower costs per case, reduced use of stronger drugs, fewer negative notes in nursing progress reports, reduced nurse hours per patient, improved staff morale and reduced turnover and costs for recruitment.

The bottom line is happier patients who use fewer strong medications, are easier to care for, go home sooner, love their hospital and recommend it to others.

NCH Healing Environment Benchmarks

Successful healing environments are those that address holistically the mind, body and spirit. In achieving this, the environment should incorporate aspects of all the senses – sound, sight, smell, touch and taste. Our senses have the ability to influence our emotions. So the premise is that by creating a calming, soothing environment, our stress levels will be reduced, thereby allowing our ability to heal to improve.

With this in mind, NCH established the following benchmarks in creating a healing environment:

Provide a patient- and family-focused environment

  • Ensure an exceptional patient care experience from the patient’s point of view
  • Encourage patient and family involvement in care
  • Design for the family’s involvement throughout the patient’s journey
  • Offer convenience and accessibility to services
  • Reinforce dignity and respect privacy

Provide spaces for staff renewal and reconnection

  • Respect the diversity of NCH staff and celebrate the hospital’s culture
  • Allow for staff social support and a place for respite
  • Promote an environment of physical safety

Provide comfort

  • Make patients and visitors feel welcome and valued
  • Enhance personal interaction through access to information and a secure, nurturing environment
  • Empower patients and visitors by providing opportunities for control of their environment

Provide a connection to nature

  • Provide access to nature and its life-affirming qualities found in light, water, touch, scent and views
  • Incorporate the qualities of nature that promote physical and psychological well-being
  • Create opportunities to provide views to the outdoors

Promote health

  • Enliven the senses and instill well-being
  • Create an environment that is focused on health and wellness
  • Encourage sociability by providing a variety of places where people can engage with their environment
  • Commitment to the advancement of design solutions that are environmentally responsible

Reinforce a sense of community and place

  • Create a destination center for the community to interact and to engage with the hospital
  • Promote and encourage a community of caregivers
  • Celebrate the spirit and history of NCH’s commitment to the region

Convey a sense of quality

  • Attention to detail
  • Emphasize service as a priority for the hospital
  • Provide individualized attention to patient needs
  • Create a harmonious, consistent image throughout the campus and its facilities
  • Convey medical excellence through state-of-the-art systems and technology

Create a holistic and healing environment

  • Design for the whole person: mind/body/spirit
  • Reassure and calm the visitor through a nurturing, warm and welcoming environment
  • Provide opportunities to connect with nature and to engage the five senses, integrating indoor and outdoor spaces

Evidenced-based design

  • Integrate principles into the facility’s structure and processes
  • Incorporate adaptable and flexible design components in order to create efficient, effective spaces, and to incorporate best practices
  • Consideration for patient and staff safety will be a priority
  • Standardization of processes, supplies and design will be employed

1 Rubin, HR, Owens, AJ, and Golden, G. An Investigation to Determine Whether the Built Environment Affects Patients' Medical Outcomes. Center for Health Design, Lafayette, Calif. 1998.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009