Kudos to the organizers of this year’s HEALTHCARE DESIGN.08 conference in Washington, DC. There were lots of very compelling sessions! I was particularly interested in the recurring themes such as infection control, sustainable design and issues of lighting and natural light. The importance of daylight came up in several contexts, from EBD studies regarding beneficial effects of bright light treatment for depression, to natural light in patient room layout and design.

I found it interesting that natural daylight is generally incorporated, often in combination with views to plants, gardens, or natural spaces, in lobbies, entries and patient rooms. Conspicuously absent from this group are spaces for staff, such as nurses stations and staff lounge areas. While the beneficial effects of natural light on patients appear to be well accepted, it is surprising that the very people who are charged with caring for the patients, and “accumulating” stress from this demanding work, are not given the advantage of this design feature.

Hospitals that I have visited appear to be organized with public spaces that are designed to be cheery, welcoming, and “natural” looking, incorporating natural light, plants, soft seating, sometimes water and music. However, the back of house spaces, especially staff work areas, are quite different. Clearly, there are a range of clinical and operational issues related to these spaces such as infection control, maintenance, work station layout, staff flow, etc. that require a different approach to environmental design. But my question would be: how can the beneficial effects of natural light, as well as views of nature and natural elements, be better incorporated into the staff areas? Does anyone have knowledge of studies that “shed light” on possible approaches to this important issue?