Over the last several blogs, I have looked at design elements that define a successful pediatric facility, from the radiology unit to the emergency department, and the private patient room. Children have unique healthcare needs that require unique design choices. 

Here are six design considerations that define a well-planned pediatric unit: 

Family spaces

Child patients generally have more visitors who stay longer than adult patients, and the pediatric unit needs to address this. Family spaces accommodate domestic needs for overnight parents. Besides offering quiet or meditative spaces, well-appointed family spaces include kitchens to prepare meals (sometimes kosher kitchens), laundry facilities, showers, and sleep space. In addition, Wi-Fi access and computer touchdown zones enable parents to accomplish tasks without leaving the floor. 

Sibling lounges

Many pediatric units offer sibling lounges geared toward different age ranges, with each lounge reflecting age-appropriate furnishings, finishes, and artwork. The lounges may have zoned areas for play (especially for younger children), computers, and quiet spaces. Child life specialists also may be available to help explain to children the procedures their hospitalized siblings are undergoing. 

Child life specialist area

Providing spaces to educate children about healthcare processes contributes to a child’s emotional wellbeing. Equipped with toys, art supplies, authentic medical materials, work surfaces, and chairs, child life specialists use therapeutic play to help children address anxiety about upcoming procedures. These specialized areas often include space for parent participation. 

Resource centers

Resource centers accommodate multiple functions. They provide digital, online, and print resources for parents to research their child’s condition. Resource centers also provide a variety of multilingual children’s books and magazines. And like most libraries, hospital resource centers offer quiet respite. 

Outdoor play areas

When possible, pediatric units also incorporate outdoor play areas to offset nature deficit, Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), and encourage patient exercise and activity. These monitored areas are secure, ADA-friendly, and observable from interior staff spaces. 


While outdoor play areas are necessarily secured, security also is an issue for the units themselves. Entrance security cameras, limited-access elevators, timed access cards, alarm systems, clear signage, and open sight lines between the nurses’ stations and entrances all play into security. 

Designing for children requires a whole different level of appreciation. Pediatric units need to consider the emotional, medical, and security needs of children undergoing long-term hospitalization. The best pediatric units recognize that children never need to feel they are alone.