I started this column, as I sat in the patient room of an orthopedic hospital beside a family member recovering from surgery. And I finished it sitting beside the same family member in a rehabilitation center as they build back their strength and mobility. For the past week I have spent an average of 8 hours a day in one of these facilities and have observed quite a lot.
Healthcare is truly all about the people. The staff we have encountered are kind, professional and very good at their jobs. At the hospital, their level of care was efficient despite a facility that is aging and not at all adequate. For a facility that specializes in orthopedic procedures, the rooms were small and cramped. When the physical therapists would visit, the chairs and hospital table needed to be moved into the bathroom so there was enough room. There was a huge hole in the middle of the white board, right in the spot where the staff would write their names and other important messages. The two chairs for visitors to sit in were incredibly uncomfortable and after about an hour in them you felt like you’d need surgery. They brought in a large, cardiac reclining chair for us since we were there almost around the clock which was incredibly kind but made the already cramped room claustrophobic. And yet at the end of the day, we felt it was an overall positive experience because the staff provided a high level of care even under the physical constraints of the building. The good news is this hospital is in fact building a new facility so future patients will get a physical space that matches the care provided by the staff.
The rehabilitation facility was more recently renovated and in fact the room we were in seemed palatial compared to the hospital room. There was half a wall of windows that let in natural light and also allowed you to see a glimpse of the world outside. The casework was new and large and looked more like a hotel. The efficiency of the semi-private room afforded each patient to have privacy but to also not feel totally isolated. The visitors’ chairs were much more comfortable, although I don’t recommend spending 8 hours in them. At the end of the day though it really is all about the people.
People make healthcare happen whether they are doing it in aging facilities or newer ones. And those people are not just the staff but also the family members who become primary advocates for their loved one as they experience a healthcare situation. We talk about the design in terms of the patient, staff and family. This past week of total immersion in two different healthcare facilities gave me an even deeper appreciation of how design can help or hinder healthcare delivery. And a greater understanding of how all 3 groups have different needs.
As the family member of a patient, here are some things that would have made my experience a little better.
1. A fridge to store a few things whether it be in the patient room or perhaps a small one in the family waiting room. I tried to brown bag my breakfast or lunch so I was eating well and it would have been nice to have some place to store it.
2. An extra small table in the room for visitors. Just some place to put my iPad or laptop because I worked from these spaces while visiting and even when not working you have things that help you pass the time and often they were on my lap or the floor. Small things but when you are taking care of a loved one anything to make it a little easier is helpful.
All of us here at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium wish you & your families a happy Holiday Season and a healthy New Year!
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo
PS Have a thought about the Symposium? Please feel free to contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.