Caring for the Caregiver

Tushar Gupta, principal at EYP Health, explains the elements of the Stamford Hospital design that enable caregivers to do their best work. Photograph courtesy Tushar Gupta

EYP Health (formerly WHR Architects) had collaborated with the leaders at Stamford Health for many years before they embarked on planning a new building. A Planetree-designated facility with Magnet Recognition for nursing, the hospital engaged the clinical staff in the development, aiming to strike a unique balance between quality care and service for patients and staff well-being.

From early benchmarking tours and the evaluation of mock-up rooms to final design decisions, the EYP team sought the input of as many stakeholders as possible on both big concepts and small details. The result is a facility that is designed to support the highest level of patient care while making the caregivers’ jobs easier by providing amenities in a safe, efficient work environment.

The design of the emergency department allows for enhanced lines of sight between the acute, trauma, and cardiac areas. Photograph by Anton Grassel/Esto

Supportive spaces and amenities
Prime real estate is dedicated for staff use, including a lounge along an exterior wall, a green roof and other outdoor spaces, and quiet zones and meditation areas that patients’ loved ones can also utilize. A touchdown space with a variety of seating options along the window wall within the surgery suite’s sterile zone is designed for doctors. Access to natural light was essential, and nursing units along the south side of the building enjoy views of the Long Island Sound.

The clinical staff has access to integrative medicine treatments, including massage and yoga, as well as the medical library, which is located across from a physicians’ lounge—a place for respite, collaboration, and work. The serene nondenominational chapel with nature-inspired glass art offers peaceful reflection.

Safer work environment
Making the environment safer for the clinicians also makes it safer for the patients. Among the safety features is rubber flooring to help prevent and reduce the severity of falls, while mitigating noise. Strategically located personal protection cabinets for just-in-time inventory of gowns and scrubs are positioned near the entrance to patient rooms, improving infection control.

The medication rooms—with acoustic control and task lighting to help combat distraction and fatigue—are adjacent to clean supplies and equipment for prompt and safe administration. Hydration stations allow staff to take water breaks while keeping an eye on critical monitors.

A staff-only lounge and rooftop terrace off the intensive care and heart and vascular departments promote rejuvenation. Photograph by Anton Grassel/Esto

Efficient workplace
In the planning process, we addressed a range of efficiency issues with a focus on ease of access to information, supplies, and other important elements. Decentralized storage and routinely stocked supplies facilitate the timely delivery of care. Clean linens are stored behind full-panel doors in the hallways of the nursing floors. And medical supplies are close at hand to save time in the clinical process.

Hands-free fixtures are placed at the entry to patient rooms. Headwalls put vital tools within ready reach, and articulating arms on bedside monitors make it easy to share information with patients, facilitating face-to-face communication and aiding in critical documentation without the distractions associated with the corridor areas where this is often completed.

Stakeholder input prioritized the impact of visualization, specifically in informing the layout of the emergency department. Nurses can observe every room along the entire corridor from any point, which improves care and mitigates risks.

Similarly dedicated lounges in nursing units offer clinicians a private space to relax and recharge with views of the Long Island Sound. Photograph by Anton Grassel/Esto

Nursing unit design
Patient unit designs address the issues of caregiver support, safety, and efficiency in multiple ways. The building’s overall shape, articulated at two strategic points in the wing, minimizes the perceived length of the floors, improves sight lines, and allows light to penetrate the patient care floors. These nodes also accommodate patient and staff amenities, like waiting rooms, education and conference rooms, a peace room, staff lockers, and a lounge.

The units are comprised of three 12-bed neighborhoods, each designed for self-sufficiency so care providers spend less time in the hunting and gathering associated with their work. To further diminish the need to crisscross the unit, each floor is serviced by two sets of elevators. Nurses’ stations are situated with optimal sight lines, which enhances staff communication and patient safety. Collaboration zones for a multidisciplinary healthcare team improve efficiency, productivity, and staff satisfaction.

In keeping with the Planetree philosophy of caregiving, an embedded sense of empathy is inherent in the hospital’s design. The interiors respond to the functional requirements of the clinical workplace setting as well as the emotional and spiritual needs of patients, families, and staff.