The Art of Hospital Design: 10 Tips for Creating Ergonomic Healing Spaces

What comes to mind when we think about healthcare? Of course, we focus on medical treatments, patient care, and advanced technology. But, we often underestimate the value of ergonomics in healthcare design.

Working in hospitals and clinics is both physically and mentally demanding for healthcare employees. Many caregivers complain of backaches, neck pains, and sore muscles or joints. This often occurs due to poor ergonomics, where people are made to work in uncomfortable positions when reaching for supplies, entering information onto charts or computer records, accessing supplies, or interacting with equipment or patients.

How can ergonomics be applied in healthcare settings?

Ergonomics is the science and art of designing workspaces so people can interact with their environment, tools, and equipment more efficiently and safely. In the fast-paced environment of hospitals and healthcare organizations, hospital architecture design planning that favors ergonomics plays a vital role in preventing work-related injuries and enhancing the overall quality of patient care.

“There is a growing understanding that better care starts with a better-designed experience. This has resulted in hospital design and architecture becoming a strategic component of the point-of-care ecosystem, especially when it is ergonomically suitable for healthcare workers,”

Kshititi Nagarkar, Principal Architect – Shree Designs

Why is ergonomics in healthcare more prevalent today?

The importance of ergonomics has increased in recent years with a rising number of injuries in healthcare workers. These injuries are often caused by lifting patients, working in uncomfortable positions with poor posture or continuously straining and bending to reach supplies, fatigue from long hours, and inefficient workflows.

Research shows nursing assistants have a five times greater risk of musculoskeletal disorders than other workers. While a physician spends 37% of the time with a patient in the exam room, on computers filling out electronic medical records, most workstations used in clinical environments are not built for their changing roles and job responsibilities.

The cost of workplace injuries goes far beyond the direct price tag. We can see that an uncomfortable working environment hinders productivity and efficiency. It also negatively affects employee retention and satisfaction, affecting the patient experience, including the quality of care delivered and patient-caregiver interactions.

Since ergonomics focuses on people, its application in human-centered design in healthcare

  • yields improved performance and productivity
  • include training and change management
  • always yield more benefits and save more money than they cost

Studies show that organizations enjoy a 12% performance improvement when comprehensive ergonomics are applied to workplaces.

How can healthcare organizations incorporate ergonomics in their designs?

When building a new healthcare organization or renovating an existing setup, doctors and management can take the first step toward comprehensive ergonomics by designing more efficient buildings centered around staff workflows.

Taking a comprehensive approach to ergonomics involves examining every aspect of the workplace. This includes analyzing task design and work behaviors, assessing the effectiveness of tools and technology, and evaluating visual, auditory, thermal, air quality, and spatial environmental variables.

To find out how supportive design can cultivate the physical and social environments in healthcare settings to reduce stress and improve patient well-being, check out our blog linked here

Here are ten tips for a hospital design plan that includes ergonomics as a critical factor:

  1. Clinics and healthcare organizations can conduct ergonomic assessments to identify potential hazards and areas for improvement. These assessments can involve observing healthcare workers performing their tasks, reviewing injury reports, and analyzing the physical demands of different tasks.
  2. Understand the nurses’ and doctors’ needs and preferences during the design process. This can involve conducting focus groups or surveys to gather feedback on the design and seeking input from healthcare workers with disabilities or other special needs. Since they are the end-users in the organization, the design should fit around their workflow.
  3. Plan workstations that are adjustable and customizable. This can include height-adjustable desks, adjustable chairs, and specialized equipment for specific tasks such as surgery, minor operations, or exam rooms.
  4. Choose adequate lighting to ensure healthcare workers can see what they are doing and avoid injury. Facilities should have appropriate lighting levels that are adjustable and designed to reduce glare and shadows.
  5. Incorporate flooring materials that are slip-resistant, cushioned, and easy to clean to reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls.
  6. Effective space planning and workflow design can reduce healthcare workers’ time walking and moving heavy equipment, thus reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. This can involve locating equipment and supplies in areas that are easily accessible and reducing unnecessary movements. Wide hallways and spacious rooms make it easy for staff to navigate, even with gurneys, wheelchairs, or mobile workstations.
  7. To improve accessibility, hospital owners can include ramps, elevators, and other accommodations to ensure workers can move around the facility safely and efficiently.
  8. Incorporate designs that enable clear visibility, like sliding glass doors and partitions that protect patient privacy and maintain security without limiting the staff’s line of sight.
  9. Portable walls offer greater patient privacy while maintaining flexibility in the room’s layout. This also improves staff safety as staff can adjust these partitions to secure the area.
  10. Include staff quarters and break rooms with low ambient lighting and acoustic insulation to help staff relax on break.

What are the fundamental design principles that healthcare designers use to incorporate ergonomics?

  1. Design for the Extreme: This approach is used where accommodating the largest or smallest individuals will also serve the needs of the rest of the population. For example, doorways are designed so the tallest person and the rest of the population can walk through them.           
  2. Design for the Average: A plan for the average may be most appropriate where a large portion of the population will use the same device or environment. It is used when the duration of use or cost precludes designing in adjustments. Examples include choosing an appropriate height for table surfaces in common workstation areas so that they can be used comfortably by the average worker.              
  3. Design for the Adjustable Range: This approach maximizes “goodness of fit,” where the device or environment adapts to the user. A typical example is modern office chairs that provide several axes of adjustment to accommodate a wide range of users.


In conclusion, healthcare design is critical to creating safe and efficient healthcare spaces. By focusing on ergonomics, healthcare designers can adapt the workplace to the worker, support work in the way it is done, emphasize ease of use, and provide for personalization of space. Incorporating ergonomic design into healthcare spaces can create a more sustainable and supportive healthcare environment for healthcare professionals and patients.

At Shree Designs, we have worked with several clients who have considered ergonomics for their staff’s well-being when building their design. Take a look at our extensive range of projects detailed here.

Featured Image: stockking on Freepik