HCD Virtual Session Q+A: Design of Staff Restorative Environments

HCD Virtual will be held Nov. 9-12 and offer a variety of keynote and breakout sessions delivered over four days. Healthcare Design is previewing some of the upcoming educational sessions in a series of Q+As with speakers, sharing what they plan to discuss and key takeaways they plan to offer attendees. For more on the HCD Virtual schedule and registration, visit HCDvirtual.com.

Session: Design of Staff Restorative Environments: A Replicated Research on Places of Respite, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 4:30-5:30 p.m. EST

Speakers: Erin Clark, healthcare operations specialist, ClarkRN Inc., Linda Knodel, senior vice president and chief nurse executive, national nursing strategy and leadership, Kaiser Permanente; Adeleh Nejati, healthcare planner and researcher, HMC Architects

Now more than ever, nurses are facing work-related stress. In this session, speakers will present findings from recent research on health-promoting respite programs and spaces to identify gaps and generate new design solutions to enhance staff well-being and satisfaction.

Additionally, through the lens of Kaiser Permanente System’s chief nurse executive, a nurse consultant, and an architect/researcher, attendees can learn ways to design and foster conditions to support nurse satisfaction, performance, and, ultimately, improved outcomes for patients and healthcare organizations.

Healthcare Design: How has the current pandemic changed the conversation about the importance of staff respite spaces?

Erin Clark: The pandemic has put nursing and frontline healthcare staff in the spotlight in a way we’ve never seen before. The general public has been more in tuned to the on goings of the acute care world as health care settings became a daily storyline on news and social media outlets.

This pandemic brought about unprecedented challenges for nurses, but also highlighted challenges that nurses have forever faced in the hospital setting. Nurses often describe their job as the “best and worst job they’ll ever have.” We put our personal lives on hold during our shifts to be able to navigate the physical and emotional needs of our vulnerable patients. The pandemic has not changed this, but has created a broader awareness of the need to make high-quality respite spaces for frontline healthcare staff a priority when designing new spaces.

What conditions in the workplace need to be created to support nurse satisfaction and performance?

For a nursing shift, once you are in your unit, you don’t leave your unit for the 12-13 hours your shift lasts. Nurses struggle with leaving their patients in the event something happens. Respite spaces need to be close, yet feel far away. Access to quiet, outdoor space, comfortable furniture, and nice amenities are all very important.

Another important condition is the delineation of spaces to be social with your colleagues over lunch as well as a place to decompress alone during stressful or emotional times. Ideally, these areas are located within close proximity to their unit and patients to allow staff to fully disconnect for a short time.

How do you think the healthcare design industry is getting respite spaces right? Where do you think there’s room for improvement?

Many organizations have designed very supportive respite areas by prioritizing these spaces, the allocated square footage, amenities, and proximity to the nursing units. We’ve seen organizations with staff gardens, balconies, large windows, meditation rooms, and food amenities. We’ve even seen an organization provide on-site yoga and exercise classes (pre-pandemic).

I feel we can work to provide a quality dialogue with our end users when designing their spaces about how to create respite to truly meet their needs. We hope the research we’re conducting will help to provide data to highlight the importance of these spaces and the positive impact these spaces can have on staff experience and retention.

For more on the HCD Virtual schedule and registration, visit HCDvirtual.com.

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