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Designing a Hospital? Ask Nurses First

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, February 7, 2012

When the nurses at Cass Regional Medical Center in Harrisonville, Missouri, got to pitch in on the design of their new hospital, they weren't just concerned with the color of the walls.

"They got very excited. They really wanted to look it from a perspective of ‘How is it going to help the patients and families?'" explained Twila Buckner, BSN, MBA, NE-BC, Cass Regional's chief nursing officer. The nurses wanted to know, "what [was] going to help them do their jobs easier and faster and better?"

A growing number of hospitals are involving nurses in the design of their facilities, consulting with them about everything from the size of patient rooms to the art that hangs on the walls. Doing so not only helps improve patient care; it can also improve morale and employee satisfaction.

That was the case at Cass Regional, which opened a new facility in September 2009. According to Buckner, the staff worked with the architects and builders in designing the new building and had a say in everything from what patient and treatment rooms would look like, to the functionality of the showers, furniture, and equipment, to how the patients would flow through the hospital.

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3 comments on "Designing a Hospital? Ask Nurses First"

Steve Moore (2/16/2012 at 9:58 AM)
As a healthcare architect and medical planner for over 25 years, and also having the privilige of working with the staff in the design of the Cass Regional Medical Center, it is incredibly important to have the staff involved not only in the design but also in making the mock-up room and installing all items in it. Not all healthcare architects fully appreciate the world you live in. As an example, on a another project of similar size to Cass, we had a scheduled review of the mock-up room. The princile-in charge, although greatly experienced in architecture was not quite 'healthcare savvy', and thought the mock up review would be a 15 minute exercise. 45 minutes later, after reviewing the location of every item and how it affected the flow of the nursing activities, (ie where do we really want the sharps container? it fits here...but it makes much more sense there because...)we left the room. His eyes were opened! The greatest flaw in healthcare design is we have become so used to doing things the way we have, and designing things the way we have, that we do not know why the left hand is doing what it is doing, and how the right hand can help or support it. Staff input is vital, and so is design leadership, but more vital than anything are new eyes to see the old ways and see a new and better way of doing things.

Kim Mills (2/15/2012 at 11:00 AM)
Our nursing staff designed our patient care units for our new hospital. We were allowed to decide down to outlet placement, number of drawers in cabinets, and square footage of some rooms. It gave our staff great pride and feelings of worth but most importantly, it made our new beautiful building very functional.

Debbie Gregory (2/8/2012 at 8:45 AM)
Thank you so much for your article on Nurses Designing Hospitals. A group of nurses that are involved in healthcare design have formed a nursing association – The Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design. We are creating a resource and network for nurses that need help designing their hospitals. We want to equip nurses to come to the design table and actively participate and advocate for their work environment. If you need more information on this subject let me know. We have so many talented nurses that are passionate about designing a work environment that promotes safety, efficiency and ultimately better patient outcomes. We are updating our website but you can check out Debbie Gregory RN, BSN Associate IIDA, Allied ASID Co-founder & President, NIHD Senior Clinical Consultant Smith Seckman Reid, Inc. Direct 615-460-0492 Cell 615-714-6794