Throughout my childhood, hospitals often held a heavy fog of sterile. White floors, white walls, everything shiny and porcelain. The pediatrician was an exception, as was the occasional carpeted waiting room, but exchange the white wear for hazmat suits and it’s E.T. without Reese’s. Everything else felt like a social experiment where I had to guess what all the other patients were in for and sit farthest away from the most contagious. Or if I was contagious, sit away from the children and elderly.
Stoughton Hospital took aspects of discomfort typically associated with hospitals into consideration with a recent remodel, making a patient-focused experience their top priority. The result integrated visual and audio aspects of intuitive design to make navigating the hospital more pleasant for patients and their families. Stress that came from feeling small or lost was replaced with a sense of respect and privacy.
On privacy, Teresa Lindfors, FACHE, MBA, RN, and vice president of Growth & Development for the hospital, says, “Our registration area, for example, is four private rooms where patients can go in and give their private information. What we had before were three side-by-side stations, and some patients had concerns about someone overhearing their information.” So right away, patients understand that their best interests are in mind, and they’re not expected to go through a potentially uncomfortable situation because it’s more convenient for the hospital. Stoughton Hospital has utilized properties of psychological health when approaching the well-being of their patients, considering experience and expectations to be on par with the quality of care provided.
Upon entering Urgent Care or the surgery areas of the hospital, a light-colored floor guides patients down hallways, with a darker wooden border indicating areas used for staff. For further convenience, different naturescapes on elevator doors give each wing a distinct feel so visitors can easier navigate the building.
Design principals of space utilization were embraced when enlarging the patient rooms. Teresa uses the analogy of a closet when describing how only so much fits, and it doesn’t take long before you’re contorting yourself to get where you need to be. Every new piece of equipment needs to fit with the existing equipment. However, unlike in a closet, you can’t always get away with taking various articles to Goodwill. Old machines and tools may still be essential for helping patients with their various needs. The rooms now feel like everything has a place while accommodating more persons, providing more room for visitors, and allowing doctors and nurses to move efficiently as they work.
A room a lot of patients don’t see is the lab, which essentially works like the kitchen in a restaurant. Before the remodel, technicians oftentimes had to work around a maze to get to the right station, perform their test, then bring it to the next station and the next. “Our lab was part of the 1976 addition of our building. It had become inefficient in terms of workflow. With the renovation, we were able to do kind of a racetrack lab.” Now the stations often involve the technicians simply turning around or taking a step to the side to get to where they need to be, ultimately reducing waiting times for patients.
It’s all a peace of mind thing. It starts with the patient being the top priority, then making sure everything is efficient, and ending with aesthetics. Teresa says they were aiming to make everything spa-like. “We wanted it to feel like a healing environment.” Some waiting areas really embraced this concept by incorporating stones and waterfalls with light sources acting to create mood with blooms of yellow against the walls and structures. Outside of that, patient rooms now embrace earth tones to break down the anxiety-inducing reminders that they’re in a hospital.
For Teresa and much of the hospital staff, having high aims was essential for the remodel. Teresa says, “We wanted a great patient and family experience. We were going to deliver quality healthcare either way, but we wanted to make sure we took patient satisfaction, safety, and security all into consideration. We wanted to exceed our customer expectations when all was complete.”
I’d say mission accomplished.
The remodel took an understanding that no two patients’ needs are alike physiologically and interlaced a concerted effort to establish comfort and trust. The result is one of embracing process, ensuring each stage and its transition is considered thoughtfully, alleviating stress and maximizing care. Words into practice, practice into relief, relief into health. Serenity.
Kyle Jacobson is a copy editor for Home Elements & Concepts, and a writer and beer enthusiast (sometimes all at once) living in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
900 Ridge Street
Stoughton, WI 53589