Over the last couple blogs, I have looked at pediatric facilities to consider design choices that enhance outcomes for young patients. Pediatric patient rooms and units likewise warrant unique design direction to accommodate children’s medical and emotional needs.

I was talking with Dennis Vonasek, AIA, who directs our Pediatric Design Services at HGA. We have worked on several pediatric units over the years.

He pointed out some key features in today’s pediatric patient rooms:

1. Family zones
The rooms are usually divided into three zones for staff, patients, and family. The family zones can include a simple sleeper chair to a pullout bed for a guardian’s overnight stay. In addition, an adult work area with a desk and Wi-Fi access enables parents to accomplish routine tasks without leaving the room. Flexible seating arrangement in expanded rooms should accommodate siblings, relatives, and young friends who may visit for longer stays.

2. Positive distractions
Because the patient rooms accommodate preschool through adolescent children, finishes should be age-neutral but engaging. Soothing colors, clever artwork, and positive distractions help ease anxiety. Ceilings, footwalls, and floors are a great opportunity for positive design features. Room features can incorporate such things as interactive lighting synced to electronic media, music, projected imagery, or simple lighting color changes.

3. Communication technology
You have probably heard by now that children are more tech-savvy than most adults, so rooms should integrate appropriate entertainment and communication technology. Flat-screen TVs, docking stations, and Wi-Fi are standard in today’s patient rooms. Such video technology as Skype or GetWellNetwork enables children to connect with their classrooms or keep in touch with siblings at home.

4. Medical technology
Because healthcare has evolved toward outpatient services over the past decade, hospitalized patients often are admitted at a higher acuity level. Pediatric rooms need to integrate more medical technology into the room, sometimes creating universal care rooms. The technology itself can be frightening to children. Designers should look for ways to visually minimize the technology, such as concealing medical gases within cabinetry by the headwall while still allowing caregivers convenient access.

5. Storage
For longer hospitalization, children may bring toys, books, and important keepsakes. While some caregivers may discourage too many accessories for getting in the way, rooms nonetheless should accommodate extra storage for patients and overnight parents.

While our design choices often focus on streamlining processes for caregivers to improve outcomes, we recognize that children have special needs. A hospital is simply a scary place. Our job as designers is to help minimize that anxiety.