As healthcare continues to move toward being a consumer-based service, focus has appropriately been placed on the experience and satisfaction of patients and families. To achieve positive results, healthcare has borrowed many ideas from retail and hospitality.

But what about the staff? Who is caring for the caregivers? Can these same principles apply to their satisfaction? There’s much that healthcare can learn from companies like Google, Microsoft, Virgin Atlantic, and Abercrombie & Fitch.

The work space. Many companies have moved away from the traditional office or work cubicle to a more casual work space without walls that promotes collaboration and efficiency. Can healthcare incorporate that same thinking into work rooms and stations? Open work areas with space for multidisciplinary team members working side by side can promote increased collaboration on patient units and in ambulatory clinics. Collocating support and administrative management staff in open office environments with a few convenient private conversation spaces for one-on-one interactions can also increase team collaboration and improve efficiencies.

In ambulatory settings, a similar colocation approach houses nurses, medical assistants, physicians, physician assistants, patient educators, social workers, pharmacists, dieticians, and others in a single open area between exam rooms, allowing for open communication and opportunities to move the patient more efficiently through the exam experience.

The staff lounge. Foosball tables, coffee bars, napping chairs, and video gaming stations are now a few of the common fixtures found in staff lounges and break spaces in retail and corporate environments throughout the U.S. While maybe not all, similar amenities are beginning to appear in healthcare environments, as well. Providing smaller spaces with controllable natural light and sound and casual, comfortable seating away from work areas can be hallmarks of respite spaces and provide important relief valves for clinical staff in high-stress environments.

The conference room. The corporate world is blurring the lines between individual workspaces, break rooms, and conference rooms. Large, open spaces with beanbag chairs, brain teaser games, idea boards, coffee bars, and stand-up conversation tables have replaced the long U-shaped mahogany table and leather executive chairs in many corporate offices. Successful corporations have discovered that their environment can spur collaboration, creative thinking, and ideas. Why shouldn’t we look to incorporate less traditional spaces in healthcare? A patient care unit could do very well with a similar area that has stand-up conversation tables, smart boards, and sound attenuation walls where staff could gather and collaboratively discuss patient cases.

Healthcare environments have taken many cues from retail and hospitality settings for patient and family spaces over the years, with successful outcomes. Adapting some of the staff amenities and environments from corporate America may provide similar success for healthcare staff. It’s time we cared for the caregiver in our designs and our projects.

Vincent Della Donna, AIA, ACHA, is 2016 Board Member – Conferences for the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health. He can be reached at