ASID: The human animal speaks: Are we listening?
For patients, family members, and extended caregivers, hospital stays are an emotional rollercoaster ride contributing to disruptions in sleep patterns, eating habits, and daily activities. With the advent of evidence-based design and intent-driven construction practices, the modern hospital facility is now designed to reduce the built environmental stress burdening families, patients, and staff alike—somewhat!
However most design teams are unaware that by providing a nicer place to sleep, in-house upscale restaurants, and outdoor walking trails we are not accomplishing the task because we are not doing enough to mitigate the illness-promoting consequences brought about by the hospital stay itself. Because we do not investigate nor identify behaviorally and environmentally disruptive stressors as triggers, which exacerbate other illness prolonging metabolic, neurological, and physiological conditions, we are failing in our efforts to provide a design solution that assists in the healing process. In essence we are falling short of the mark in helping to transition the hospital facility from treatment center to true healing center.
In order to succeed through the use of a well designed environment, one has to first examine the hospital-induced stressors from the human animal’s point of view and by asking questions such as: What is happening to the body and brain when it finds itself unable to sleep due to pain, strange surroundings, and excessive light and sound at night? What are the metabolic consequences of not maintaining regular feeding times and how can design play a role by providing environmental interventions? And lastly, what happens to the body and brain when physical movement is restricted at the same time that mental and visual activities are limited to a confining space? For only when we, as a profession who prides itself on coming up with creative solutions based on knowledge, begin to ask ourselves these body- and brain-directed questions will we be able to provide healing healthcare solutions worthy of professional status.