How Does the Hospital Room Support the Patient Experience?
March 11, 2016
A patient is admitted to a hospital room. Next to everything that happens — the tests, admission processes, many unknown people who continually enter and ask questions, the hospital room is her first entrance into “inpatienthood.”
The hospital room is the stage upon which the patient experience occurs. There may be scene changes, such as moving to a radiology lab, endoscopy lab, or surgical theatre, but the hospital room and the bed in which a patient stays becomes her life-world.
The hospital room’s furnishings, windows, ceiling, flooring, and walls provide substantial clues as to where patients are, what they can expect, and whether they are in a safe and good place.
What is in patients’ line of sight when they enter a hospital room? Most likely, a single bed with institutional-looking blankets, a headboard with lots of outlets and cords, harsh fluorescent lighting, and a canister on the wall with a skull and crossbones label that says WARNING! CONTAMINATED NEEDLES!
What else do they see? Maybe stained ceiling tiles. Well-worn flooring. Grab bars. Waste paper baskets. Are there towels anywhere? How far is the bathroom from the bed?
The patient day is a 24-hour day. The hospital room changes over time with the movement of the sun. Is the room able to offer support as its shadows and light changes?
And what do patients smell? Disinfectant? Somebody else’s lunch?
What do patients hear? What do they overhear? What kinds of sounds and conversations are patients subjected to? Does what they hear give them confidence in saying what they need to say about themselves to their caregivers?
Is privacy experienced as safe and respectful or is it isolating and threatening? Or is it non-existent?
At night, are patients calm and able to sleep or are they continually interrupted by erratic sounds?
Then there is the television. Lifeless when it is off, when turned on, does it support healing and recovery? Does it only offer frenetic, brutal news of war and strife? Does it function for the benefit of the patient or entertainment of the visitors?
Whose Responsibility is It?
All these questions need to be asked and answers need to come from not only from patients, but also from those who care for them. Caregivers, collectively or individually, are the guardians of the hospital room and the overall patient environment. They are responsible for making sure it is the best it can be.
Because in the end, the patient experience is the patient environment, which becomes the patient experience.
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