Healthcare Design for All

Improved healthcare environments don't just benefit patients, they can attract and retain talented staff

According to a 2014 National Healthcare & RN Retention Report from NSI Nursing Solutions, economic improvement creates competition that impacts the attraction and retention of nursing and other hospital staff, largely due to the overall shortage of available, qualified personnel within the healthcare market. Consider the report’s conclusion:

The value hospitals place on their people will have a direct correlation to their commitment, confidence, and engagement. Enhancing culture and building programs to reinforce these values is critical to driving retention. Hospitals believe that retention is a “key strategic imperative,” yet are slow to translate this into a formal strategic plan.

For healthcare settings, an employment attraction and retention strategy needs to be developed. Not only is it costly to replace an employee, but there is risk that the cycle will repeat and cause turnover to become the norm instead of the exception. The goal is to break this cycle and make attraction and retention the norm.

As healthcare designers, we have a very important role in assisting clients with staff attraction and retention. In addition to making staff members feel valued and appreciated, and providing them opportunities for professional growth, there are many opportunities to support the needs of employees, patients, residents, and visitors by improving the physical setting. Because of reimbursement, measuring the outcomes of healthcare design has been a hot button for many providers—but there has been a large focus on resident and patient satisfaction surveys and results, while further evaluation of staff satisfaction is often overlooked.
Collaborating with healthcare provider teams is essential to creating successful environments—and designers are a necessary contributor to the process! For example, there are several questions that directly relate to the physical environment in relationship to turnover rate:

  • Are there spaces that support discussion and communication?
  • Are walking distances supportive of the work that is required of an individual?
  • Is the environment conducive to performing your job safely and efficiently?

Recently, I was re-reviewing a listing of concerns from a meeting agenda, and checking it against the current layouts that were being provided for the project. The staff member had written “FUNCTION, FUNCTION, FUNCTION”—meaning that not only do we need to make beautiful healthcare environments, but they also need to meet the operational needs for everyone working there.

Facilitating focus groups of all ages of staff can assist in better understanding their needs and concerns. Surveys are a good starting point, but interactive settings where it is safe to discuss and air out issues is the best way to support staff. Often we discuss completing a functional programming process prior to beginning the design of a healthcare environment. The information provides an opportunity to evaluate each operational and care activity so that it is appropriately supported by the design. This is similar to retention strategies; if you have a higher turnover rate, there is a need to address the “why” behind the issue.

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