NICU Spaces: 3 Critical Design Components

August 1, 2013
Finalist in the 2013 Patient- and Family-Centered NICU Design Competition. Image: courtesy of the Institute for Patient-Centered Design Finalists in the 2013 Patient- and Family-Centered NICU Design Competition. Image: courtesy of the Institute for Patient-Centered Design
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My sister-in-law is a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse, and whenever she talks about her job, her patients, and the families she serves every day, I’m always filled with the same combination of dread/awe that’s probably hard-wired once you become a parent. NICU spaces are so specialized, so unique in what they do. While the importance of involving the family in patient care is recognized across all healthcare disciplines, in the NICU, it’s practically a requirement.

Tammy Thompson, founder of the Institute for Patient-Centered Design, lived that dread and awe firsthand when her son was born preterm and spent his first week of life in a Level 2 NICU. It’s an experience that’s profoundly shaped Thompson’s life and her architecture career.

And so for its 2013 patient- and family-centered design competition, the institute chose to focus on the NICU environment. Today it announced its three winners: Hord Coplan Macht Inc. for MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore; McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, S.C.; and Stantec Architecture Ltd. for “Hospital for Sick Children” in Toronto.

Among the competition’s jurors was Dr. Bob White, chairman of the Consensus Committee on Recommended Standards for Newborn ICU Design. Here, he shares what he feels are three of the most critical components of designing NICU space—the criteria he kept in mind when judging the submissions:

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