When was the last time you visited the Emergency Room and had to wait in a chair that after five minutes of sitting in the worn out, flat cushioned, peeling vinyl seat you knew it was going to be a long night? Here's a question for all the new Dad's out there; “What was your experience the night your wife went into labor and you had an 'Overnight' recliner which didn't exactly recline?”

My traumatic healthcare experience happened the evening when my son (who was three) suffered a reverse asthma attack (the esophagus was inflamed) and was admitted into Pediatric Emergency at our local hospital. The care we received was outstanding with top specialists from Children's Hospital but because of his reaction to the medication we had to stay in the ER for twelve hours. There I sat in the ER at seven and a half months pregnant with his soon to be youngest sister and had all but a wooden chair to sit on. Ugh! One might laugh now but I wasn't laughing then...

I am aware the hospital was not entirely at fault regarding my discomfort... but, unfortunately for me, the furniture I sat on was the only furniture available at the time. If we look at healthcare furniture options now; stylish and comfortable compared to what we had only six years ago it is safe to say that we are experiencing a revolution in way of the Healthcare Environment. Hospital furniture does not have to look like hospital equipment. The furniture can function like hospital equipment and still maintain the aesthetic beauty of stylish healthcare furnishings.

It is true, Healthcare furniture has come a long way. To me this is both exciting and moving. Anyone who has to stay overnight or care for a loved one in a hospital knows what I'm talking about. There is no doubt that the challenges for Healthcare furniture specifiers is more complex than ever before. With more options to choose from, one might think you need a Ph.D. in furniture making. A specifier must know and understand the difference between a wallsaver recliner, a treatment recliner and a regular pushback recliner or a registration area lounge chair vs. an ER lounge chair the list is extensive. One other aspect is price. Budget (particularly now) is always a driving factor. And WOW! is it a win/win when specifications for healthcare furniture align with the function of the area to the degree that the furniture suits the space, works from a budget stand point and creates a memorable patient experience.

To help specify the right chair, here is a quick checklist I find valuable when used: Please feel free to add to it.

  • What is the use of the recliner? Is the recliner to be used for Oncology in an Infusion Bay, Patient Transport or PACU or in ICU ?
  • Who will be sitting in the recliner and for how long?
  • Will the caregiver be assisting the patient to use the chair?
  • Does the recliner need to recline into a Trendelenburg position? If so, how will the chair perform during this procedure?
  • Waiting Room and Lounge Seating: Is the area of the hospital high performance or low traffic?
  • Does the lounge chair need to rock, glide or have an adjustable back with wood arms, upholstered arms or polyurethane?
  • Is there a bariatric version to match and coordinate with the overall aesthetic of the environment?
  • How easy does the lounge chair or recliner transform into a sleepover chair?
  • How easy is it to clean?
  • Can the components of the chair be replaced and how quickly?
  • Is there a lifetime warranty?

The demand for high style, performance and long-term wearability creates sustainability and makes way for holistic solutions.The result; a patient experience worth talking about.

What is your healthcare design experience? What would you like to see change in your hometown hospital? Please let me know. I want to hear from you.