Designing spaces in healthcare facilities tailor-made for children is a lesson in balance! A balance between functionality and flexibility, playfulness and serious medical care, comfort and state of the art technology. The critical element in this design is hope.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nearly 6 million hospital stays involve teenagers, and 3 million patients are neonates. When dealing with such a vulnerable age group, it is essential to provide the right environment for optimal healing across the care continuum.
Here are five tips for creating healing spaces for kids in healthcare facilities.
1 – Light it Up!
It is no secret that the potential healing powers of the light and the sun have been used for centuries. Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, as well as civilisations in the east, including India, China and Tibet, have used natural light as a way to promote wellbeing and recovery. It is challenging to find ways to incorporate natural light in healthcare facilities, especially in urban areas. However, we can simulate the desired effect with the right combination of tone and placement of artificial light sources. LED lights that can be linked to motion sensors and timers, with a wide range of colour options, are replacing the harsh glare of fluorescent lights, traditionally used in healthcare facilities.
2 – Privacy Matters
Another factor that is often overlooked is how young patients value the opportunity to continue the “normal” aspects of their daily life, as much as possible. This can be facilitated through efforts to personalise their space and their social interactions, even at healthcare facilities. Privacy can range from single rooms to divided cubicles, depending on the size of the organization, but in addition to specific colours or themes, studies show that a focus on flexibility and customizability also plays a significant role.
3 – The Power of Positive Distraction
Architects are using design language to engage young patients and their families with age-appropriate positive distractions. The right combination of lighting, art, colour, texture, murals or green spaces has the power or transport children out of the hospital and into an enchanting forest, a dream city for kids, or an interactive garden. It may be a small respite from their daily stress but can make all the difference in their healing experience.
At Shree Designs, we found the perfect way to incorporate a little bit of magic into the waiting rooms of a prominent paediatrician. We used a garden theme for the clinic, and our hand-painted mural brought just the right touch of whimsy. Read about the entire project, linked here!
4 – Safety and Sterility
At Shree Designs, we incorporated these elements into our design while balancing the look and feel of the facility in our recent project at Neobliss Newborn Care, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Mumbai, India. We included indirect lighting and soothing colours to create a calm setting. However, we also planned the ICU structure as per NABH standards with the following features to add to sterility:
When we go past the aesthetics, we need to make sure that the area is also functional. Again, safety and sterility are the key components that support healing, especially when dealing with newborns.
Portable Air filtration of air for the ICU beds.
HGPVC (Antimicrobial Wall Cladding) and a PVC cladding system that incorporated silver ion antimicrobial technology
Gerflor Vinyl Flooring with a non-porous, water repellent and stain-resistant surface.
Health Shield Paint (Anti-bacterial paint)
5 – Care for Caregivers
While children are the patients in paediatric wards, they are always accompanied by family members who also need to be accommodated during this stressful time.
Many organizations develop interactive play areas for siblings and flexible exam rooms that allow families to be present together.
Healthcare facilities who have an effective and simple wayfinding system designed to guide both adults and children from one space to another, is appreciated by the entire family, especially if they have to find their way across large campuses, with different buildings spread over a large area.
A hospital can be a scary place for a child and their family members. Surrounded by daunting medical equipment, going through lengthy medical procedures, and being away from their homes and loved ones make it easy for children to get overwhelmed.
“Our future design discussions need to involve patients and caregivers, observe how these individuals use spaces, and to ultimately see things such as they do. Only when we view the environment through the patient’s eyes shall we understand how to advance healthcare environments.”
Michael Graves. Architect
It’s time to inject some playfulness and get rid of the cold sterility in patient environments! When we introduce colour and light to brighten up healthcare facilities for children, we can vastly improve their experience.