Parents’ Perspective Drives Hospital Design

Jennifer Romer, RN, led the parents’ simulation events.

Nurses and doctors were getting ready as a child was being transferred to a patient room. Could the bed fit through the door? Was all in the equipment accessible? But from a corner came a question: What direction would my daughter be facing? Would I be able to see her from here?

The question came from Michele Ashland, a parent taking part in a series of real-life scenarios in mock-up rooms designed as test areas for Packard Children’s new facilities.

Ashland, a parent lead in the Department of Family-Centered Care, was one of five parents who participated in more than 10 different scenarios that reenacted real-life situations in the hospital mock-up rooms. Working in teams, they provided their perspectives and insights as the medical teams went through their paces. They talked about the room around the bed, access to the restrooms, whether the kids could see the TV, if the chairs were in the right place, where a hook should be placed to hang a purse.

“We took part in every scenario where there would be a parent or family member,” says Ashland, whose daughter had a liver transplant at Packard Children’s when she was 6 months old. “We were mindful of where we would be standing, and how we could be near our child without being in the way. We were completely included as part of the care team.”

Mockups allow physicians, nurses, and multidisciplinary care teams to experience new space logistics and provide feedback to improve efficiencies and coordinated care. Ashland and the other parent volunteers were there to offer input on adult space and family needs. They took part in five half-day sessions that included about six different scenarios, such as a code, transfer or bath. If the age of the child affected the kind of equipment needed, the scenario would be run again with the new configuration.

“It felt very real. People had on work clothes and wore their badges, and they brought in real beds and fixtures,” she says. “We just jumped in and pulled from our experience.”

In the pediatric intensive care unit rooms, for example, a worried parent would not simply stand still, but would probably be pacing or shifting position, so more room needed to be designed for this activity. In the bathrooms, the paper towel dispenser was moved after parents found they knocked into it when giving a child a bath.

“I think our comments were tremendously helpful in the planning process,” says Ashland. “We were really listened to, and our comments were considered and incorporated. It was gratifying to make such a real contribution as part of the team.”


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