Abandoning the Afterthought

October 6, 2011
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Caroline Kelly, Senior Design Researcher, Nurture by Steelcase
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In 2008, Spectrum Health Systems of Grand Rapids, Michigan, noted an interesting finding in its staff satisfaction surveys: Employees were generally unhappy with the quality of their break rooms. To respond to this piece of information, the health system initiated what it called an “Extreme Break Room Makeover” competition, encouraging departments to nominate their respite areas for a facelift. Out of 60 entries, three were selected.

Spectrum Health wanted the renovation process to be grounded in a human-centered design research approach and asked Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures research group to guide them through the process. Aside from designing a better, human-centered break room, the organizations wanted to measure the impact of the project on the users. In order to conduct the study, Caroline Kelly, a senior design researcher for Nurture by Steelcase, Karen VanderLaan, senior nurse researcher for Spectrum Health, and Karyl King, who at the time worked for Spectrum Health’s Center for Exceptional Experiences, joined as co-investigators, to design and execute a study on the makeovers.

Now the findings, as well as the details of the individual renovations, will be shared with attendees at the HEALTHCARE DESIGN.11  conference being held November 13-16, 2011, at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. Kelly, VanderLaan, and King will present the study in a roundtable session titled “The Impact of Design on Healthcare Staff Rest & Rejuvenation” at 1:45 p.m. on Monday, November 14, 2011, in Canal C of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Kelly discussed the research and offered a preview of what she and her co-investigators will be discussing at the conference with HEALTHCARE DESIGN Managing Editor Jennifer Kovacs Silvis.


How did the study begin once the three winning departments were selected?

The three projects that had been chosen were a large break room for the perioperative department at the Butterworth Hospital, which serves more than 100 users every day; a smaller break room for a med/surg floor at Blodgett Hospital, which is another Grand Rapids, Michigan, location for Spectrum; as well as the health information management system at Blodgett. They were interested in picking three different areas because of the merit of their cases, but also because of the different types of work these users performed.

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