Designed for families, with families

Diane Flynn with her son, Matthew

Diane Flynn with her son, Matthew

How do you build the best children’s hospital? You start by asking patient families what they want it to include.

Diane Flynn, whose youngest child, Matthew, was born with a cleft lip, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford became like a second home as her son underwent a series of surgeries and appointments with dozens of specialists during the first eight years of his life. During that time, Flynn learned firsthand about the importance of the hospital environment in the healing process, which is detailed in my story in the latest issue of Stanford Medicine magazine.

“As a parent who has had a sick child, any time you step foot into a hospital it brings back a rush of emotions — some good, some challenging,” Flynn said. “For me, despite the difficult memories, I always had this feeling that the hospital was a pleasant place to be, and I tend to get filled with an overwhelming amount of gratitude for that.”

This inspired Flynn to give back to the hospital once Matthew grew older and needed less treatment. She joined the hospital’s Family Advisory Council to serve as a voice for families like hers, and became involved in the new hospital’s design committee, which included representatives from the project’s two architectural firms as well as hospital staff, board members, faculty and members of the Family Advisory Council.

“About 10 years ago, before the design team or architects had plans, they had parents,” Flynn recalled. They asked us very generally ‘what would you want to see in the new hospital?’ It was an open forum for input and creative brainstorming. And it didn’t take long for us all to agree — light, healing, engaging.”

Now, just weeks away from the December opening of the new hospital, the families’ feedback about this restorative ambiance is present throughout the entire hospital campus, from the 3.5 acres of gardens and green space to the sunlit, glass-walled lobby and outdoor decks on each patient care floor to the garden views and window boxes accessible from each patient room to the Northern California native plant- and animal-themed art that lines the walls.

Dunlevie Garden

In addition to influencing the broad themes of the building, parents and caregivers played a key role in designing some of the building’s details. Patient rooms, for example, were designed to be healing, comfortable spaces for the whole family, and nearly all of them are private and include sleeping accommodations for two family members.

“We reviewed bedside tables, tried different sleeper beds, tested the comfort of rocking chairs, examined the distance from the couch to the patient’s bed, to the television and to the phone charger built into the wall,” Flynn says. “Everyone had a different perspective. For me, the lighting was really important. When my son was in the hospital, I didn’t want to disturb him by turning on the overhead lighting to read, so for the new building the design committee made sure we would have cozy reading lights in each room.”

Parents also championed having bathtubs in many of the bathrooms instead of standing showers to make bath time easier for little ones. Their input also resulted in the inclusion of a family lounge, laundry facilities and family kitchen on every patient floor to help families maintain day-to-day routines. “You just don’t think about it until you walk it from a patient or parent perspective,” Flynn says.

Karen Wayman, director of the Family Advisory Council, explains that the close collaboration between providers and parents was crucial to the design’s success.

“Providers learned about the parents’ experiences in the hospital, and parents had an opportunity to see how things worked from the provider prospective,” she says.

“Parents bring the lived experience with them. They’ve walked the walk with their children. While care teams’ lived experience is providing care and they have an invaluable perspective on the safety and efficiency of the new design, families look at it with heart. And no one else can do that.”


One Response to “Designed for families, with families”

  1. Job Agreda

    Emocionante y motivador. Una experiencia diferente para los pacientes: HOSPITAL-CASA.
    Diseño de hospitales rompiendo todos los esquemas, en favor de los niños y sus familias.
    Mis sinceras felicitaciones. Son un ejemplo para todos.


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