Since I work within a large university hospital complex, I often wander the halls and think about the patient’s perspective in the facility. Among the things that have caught my eye include the fact that patients, in gown and all, are often transported through the main corridors and elevator lobbies of the hospital. Sometimes I see them being pushed in wheelchairs or on stretchers, all while hospital staff and visitors are standing and walking by. Just the other day I was sitting in the lobby and an unconscious woman on a stretcher with 5 medical staff members following came tramping in through the main entrance. I know if I were in the patient’s situation, I would feel uncomfortable or even a bit embarrassed.

Effective space planning is one way that can help solve the problem of diminishing patient dignity in this situation. I took a tour of a new hospital in Arkansas a few years ago that was designed by a leading A&D firm in healthcare design. Their solution to this problem was a “main stage/backstage” idea. The hospital design was treated like a theater—you had the “main stage” where all the public activities took place, as well as where the nurse’s stations and patient rooms were located. The “backstage” area was where all the transporting was done and where supplies and other amenities were stored. There were also separate elevator shafts so that the patients could be transported away from the public eye. Not only did the planning restore some dignity to the already insecure and anxious patient, but it also allowed for staff tasks to be completed away from public areas where they could concentrate more on the tasks at hand.

How is your firm maintaining patient dignity through design?