All In One: Designing Womens’ And Children’s Hospitals
When designing women’s and children’s facilities, we need to understand the challenge: creating a separate identity for distinct groups while maximizing operational efficiencies and collaboration.
In fact, we’re designing for three age groups: women (adults), children, and infants. In the world of women’s and children’s design, it’s key to create identities for and fulfill the necessities of each cohort group while developing a common working platform for all.
Based on this principle, we must consider the needs of each group and the possible common work areas.
Birthing, in most cases, is a happy experience; it is a magical moment with an enormous reward when one sees one’s child for the first time. The main focus is generally on the mother, followed by the father and family, who are usually present for this joyful experience. Nothing can compare to it, and we are designing to facilitate this moment.
On the other hand, infants who require intense care tend to induce strong emotions for all involved. We are still designing with a focus on the adults—for the family to be closer to their baby, for the staff who is under tremendous stress—and for celebration of positive progress. The colors, the space, the environment are focused on the adult, but light and noise are critical for the baby’s development and need special attention.
Nothing is more grueling than caring for a sick child. We constantly think of all the life ahead that a child has and how unfair it is for one to get sick. But children have the most impressive resilience and are great patients, and our designs should celebrate them. It should be fun, it should be playful, and it should help them play when their bodies presents limitations.
In addition, it’s important to remember that this group represents a wide range of ages, varying from baby to young adults, and all of their needs should be addressed.
After establishing and answering user groups, the functionality of services need to be considered. We can’t forget the doctors and nurses who work in these facilities. Developing efficient flow and planning is a critical part of the design process.
We also need to give attention to the emotional needs of staff and create places for respite and decompression. This means to create opportunities to enhance collaboration and resource sharing, which are fundamental concepts.
To accommodate all of these needs, different strategies can be developed. For example, an imaging department may have a separate registration and waiting area for pediatric versus adult patinets, but the diagnostic and treatment spaces may be shared between all constituents to create maximum flexibility and efficiency over time.
As needs and utilization volumes change, standardizing rooms and sharing spaces allows for easy reassignment through a facility.
In today’s healthcare scenario, efficiency must be balanced with creating an appropriate environment for patients. Standardization and sharing of workspaces are just two examples of how we can create separate brands and identities, while not overbuilding. And that’s the challenge we need to consider.
Tatiana Guimaraes is the 2015 president of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health and senior medical planner and senior associate at Perkins + Will. She can be reached at email@example.com.