Interior Design is the art and science of creating environments. Period.
Our lives are spent in environments – home, gym, school, church, etc. – that have a daily impact on our mental and physical well-being. The design of these environments directly influences our experience – warmly embraced in a church, put on the spot in school, cozy at home or energized at the gym. Design makes us “feel” one way or another. From time to time, we find ourselves in places we do not want to be – hospitals, dentists, doctors, etc. We resent the function of the space and fear what is to come. Tension is palpable. We want to run away. That is when design saves the day.
At SR/A we know design plays a crucial role in improving the experience people have in spaces and we work hard to make sure the patients are as comfortable and as relaxed as possible. That is particularly true in pediatric offices. But let’s not forget the people who work in these offices. To create a nice atmosphere for the patients, we need the nurses and doctors to be at ease as well. They too need to be serene and pleased with their environment.
So how does SR/A achieve a positive environment and a pleasant experience in a dreaded healthcare office?
- Circulation: Start with the obvious. Create a clear and efficient layout to minimize congestion and confusion. A natural way to move through a space creates not only a sense of ease for patients but also makes the work for providers easier to navigate.
- Accessibility: the office must be wheelchair-friendly with ramps, handrails, and room for others to move around the wheelchair without the hint of frustration and should be done in a way that supports the overall design of the space.
- Aesthetics and Healing Environment: Think of the spa; use soothing colors, large peaceful and serene art, and natural elements for a calming atmosphere. Large, real, and well-maintained plants are a secret factor for relaxation. An aquarium can be an appeasing distraction, but we would recommend a larger one than what is typically found in a residence to provide maximum design impact.
- Patient Comfort: Use comfortable seating – large, soft, and easy to use armchairs. Additionally, it is important to consider the ergonomics and accessibility when sourcing furniture. Wider chairs and chairs with arms that are easy to get in and out of is an important design caveat in furniture planning for a medical practice. As always lighting makes the room. In areas where light temperature is not needed to be focused for procedures and treatments soft lighting with spotlights on the art, up lights on the plants and floor or table lights instead of ceiling fluorescent are beneficial for creating a sense of calm in the space. Let’s remember the appropriate temperature control. Too cold or too hot is not comfortable.
As mentioned, staff collaboration is key. They must be in their element to create a pleasant atmosphere. Here’s some tips for making medical spaces conducive to good work in a beautiful environment for staff:
- Use of Color: Create bright and pleasant spaces for team meetings, collaboration, and relaxation, to enhance teamwork.
- Technology Integration: Look to bring tech into treatment and exam rooms as well as the reception areas in a way that creates an easy, smooth work environment. Incorporate digital systems to streamline processes and improve efficiency in beneficial.
- Intentional and Thoughtful Design: Respect for the patients and staff will promote confidence and ease. Think about privacy for patients and maintaining confidentiality. Create private consultation rooms with soundproof walls for confidentiality. Maintain a high level of infection control by choosing easy-to-clean materials and incorporate hands-free fixtures when possible.
- Ambiance: Finally, scent is important as well. An office that “smells” good is unconsciously pleasant. Natural scents such as eucalyptus, lavender or mint for example, herbal and never perfumy are a welcome bonus feature for creating a quality work environment.
By thinking ahead of what patients and staff need or want, and incorporating these design principles, health-focused professional offices can be a welcoming and healing environment for patients and staff. SR/A is here to help you with your next medical office project!
Sabine Roy is President and CEO of SR/A.