As part of it's "The Hospital" series, The Globe and Mail looked at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Ontario. In the article "Better by design: How a hospital room can help patients heal" on the Globe's website, how a hospital's physical environment can help or hurt the healing process is examined.
According to the article, throughout the 20th century, hospitals were constructed to suit the needs of caregivers, not patients. The physical space wasn’t considered an integral part of the healing process, said, Robyne Maxwell, director of care delivery model redesign for Island Health in Victoria, B.C.
Today, evidence-based design suggests that patients’ surroundings have a major impact on outcomes. Numerous medical studies have shown that single-patient rooms, noise-absorbing floors and ceilings, exposure to natural light and reduction in overhead announcements encourage rest – and help patients get home sooner, the article said.
At Sunnybrook, parts of the hospital reflect that new attitude. In the hospital’s new neonatal intensive care unit, which opened in 2010, all 48 beds are housed in single rooms, with the exception of two rooms designed for twins. Glass walls allow the nurses constant visual contact with their patients. Rooms are darkened to reflect research that shows NICU babies thrive best without the lights on. And each room has a separate entrance for parents, which allows them to visit their children as much and as often as they wish, the article said.
There are also “negative pressure” rooms that have separate ventilation systems, allowing patients with infectious illnesses to be segregated. The department is further divided into four pods that can be isolated from each other in the event of an outbreak. There are scrub sinks outside every patient area.
According to the article keys to a healing design are:
• Single rooms
Access to a private room is the design intervention that can have the greatest impact on a patient’s recovery. Numerous studies have shown that private rooms reduce stress, make it easier for patients to sleep, speed recovery times, increase privacy and dignity, and may even reduce the incidence of medical errors.
• Nature and light
Instead of institutional gray walls and poor lighting, many hospital rooms resemble what you’d find in a hotel with a window and a view of nature.
• A bed without rails but with a control center
The use of bed rails to prevent falls may, in fact, accomplish the opposite. A 2005 study in the Irish Journal of Medical Science found that 12 per cent of bed-area falls and nearly 30 per cent of all bedside injuries were linked to bed rails. Portals behind the beds can accommodate equipment that must be plugged in or connected to wires, keeping the bedside area less cluttered
• Quiet and clean
Private, easily accessible, bathrooms are critical to infection control. Also, studies have documented the positive effects of installing sound-absorbing ceiling tiles.
Read the article.