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Designing a Hospital? Ask Nurses First

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

At Elmhurst Memorial Hospital in Elmhurst, Illinois, nurses were also involved in the design of a new campus, which opened in June. According to the hospital website, homelike design features such as gardens, private rooms, and soothing, natural colors, were incorporated into the space.

Feeling at home is something that Buckner echoes when talking about the nurses' involvement at Cass Regional.

"It feels like home to them because of a lot of the input that they had," she says. "It doesn't feel like a hospital building."

In addition to contributing to a work environment that's more conducive to healing and patient care, Buckner says the nurses at Cass Regional are happier in their jobs. She adds that giving the nurses a say in the design has "absolutely" helped to boost morale.

"I think that people are happier coming to work because of the ownership piece, and I think that they feel more loyal," she says. "Our employee engagement scores really show that the staff are more engaged in the facility, and I think a lot of that comes from them being allowed to have quite a bit of input into the design."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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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