How often does an architect get to experience and utilize a type of space they design? As a firm, we design many healthcare projects from medical office building, hospital outpatient suites, and doctor’s offices. Our designs reflect the Owner’s function, current medical trends, and state of the art technologies.
Last year about this time, I decided to go “undercover” and spent 2 weeks as a patient at a hospital (to remain unidentified to protect the innocence). I investigated the patient experience from an architectural stand point – understand how the patient experience can be improved through architecture.
As I was escorted to my room I could not help but notice the neutral finishes, a spark of color could have brighten my mood as I walked nervously to my room. The patient rooms were organized around the perimeter with the support spaces centrally located, however, the nurse’s station could not visually see all of the rooms. It made me a little uneasy knowing they might not be able to see me. After a short walk I was at my room, I looked around the space that would be my “home “for the next two weeks of research (thankfully a private room!).
Right away, I was impressed by the large windows! While they were not operable, the connection to the outdoors and natural light was definitely a positive. The space also included built–in casework that housed some of the equipment, nice detail. It’s already a nerve-wracking time, so I appreciated not being overwhelmed with all the equipment. One area that could have been improved was the sound insulation. The noise from the adjacent corridor or patient rooms was sometimes loud at night time, and getting rest was very critical. The lighting in the room was acceptable, but a few more variations of lighting levels could have been helpful for my various tasks through the day, which of course included reading, watching television, entertaining guests, or sleeping. The temperature control was perfect! I was able to make the room warmer or cooler as needed, however the controls should have been closer to the bed. All in all the space was comfortable. The design of hospital spaces can directly impact a patient’s comfort and health. However, while I would love to say that the architecture of a space makes or breaks a person’s entire experience at the hospital, I would be incorrect. The nurses, doctors, and staff are what truly provide for an exceptional experience. Architecture just supports it!