When Jenifer LaRose, an RN, CPN, and clinical manager of the sixth floor at Hasbro Children’s Hospital (Providence, R.I.), started her career in nursing 20 years ago, she says families were not embraced as part of a patient’s care team.

And even if hospitals had designated spaces for families spending time in the hospital with their loved ones, they typically held a couch or two and a TV, but nothing that really made them feel welcoming and home-like.

But that’s all changing now as moms, dads, siblings, spouses, and friends are being recognized as important players on patients’ care teams, thanks in part to changes driven by healthcare reform. (For more on design trends in family and visitor spaces, check out “Guest Services: A New Approach.”)

To the healthcare design and construction fields, that means more projects are coming up that require upgrading or remodeling of existing family and visitor spaces or creating room in new facilities that feel intentional and welcoming, not an afterthought thrown into a slice of leftover space.

For example, Kaiser Permanente recently opened the doors to a new medical center in Oakland, Calif., that features private patients rooms with pull-out guest beds for families staying overnight with loved ones.

At Western Connecticut Health Network’s new 300,000-square-foot Peter and Carmen Lúcia Buck Pavilion at Danbury Hospital (Danbury, Conn.), family space is offered on each floor, including comfortable waiting areas and private space to consult with physicians and hospital staff.

Hasbro Children’s started remodeling its existing family lounges a few years ago and unveiled its latest project, the Dunkin Donuts Family Lounge, in April on the sixth floor behavioral unit. Since family members here get limited hours for visitation and attend frequent family meetings as part of a patient’s recovery, it’s important that they have space to wait, take a break, or even grab a bite to eat or enjoy of cup of coffee between appointments.

LaRose says the new family lounge, which was funded by local Dunkin’ franchisees and designed to resemble a restaurant with a kitchen and computer stations, provides a nice place to take a break because it “doesn’t feel like you’re in a hospital.”

While offering a place for respite or simply to stay close to loved ones, these spaces also send a message to families that they are important.

“We want to make it easier for them,” LaRose says. “They’re a crucial part of getting [patients] better.”