Page C1.1 . 02 January 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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    Nursing Units Evolve

    by Janet Faulkner, AIA

    Acute-care units in U.S. hospitals face challenges: low satisfaction levels for patients and caregivers, ineffective materials flow, lack of storage, inefficient use of beds, and a shortage of nurses, technicians, and other health workers.

    Reduced reimbursements don't help, nor does a diminishing supply of operational capital. To top things off, design has often magnified these problems, when it should be helping to alleviate them. But how? What should the acute-care unit of the future look like?

    Where We've Been

    A brief review of the evolution of the configuration of patient floors shows a variety of shapes as each iteration attempted to solve a different problem.

    For one configuration, visibility of the patient was the focus. For another, decreasing the caregiver's daily hike was paramount. Yet each solution invariably compromised other needs materials flow, storage, patient needs, caregiver requirements sometimes to the point where the concessions outweighed the intended solution.

    Years of incremental tinkering have resulted in today's typical acute-care unit, which forces inefficiencies in a world where efficiency is the only way to succeed. The most important lesson from the past? Let it go. To design the acute-care unit of the future, let's start with current needs, not those of the last century.   >>>



    ArchWeek Image

    Room-side charting stations decrease travel distances for nurses.
    Photo: Chris Eden

    ArchWeek Image

    "Care-ports," or nurse stations outfitted to serve as many as three nursing teams, help caregivers maintain critical contact with colleagues.
    Photo: Chris Eden


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