With the recent attention to patient satisfaction scores and HCAHPS survey results, we have learned a lot about ways in which the healthcare environment can influence patient experience. 

We also know through research by the Gallup organization, Press Ganey, and others that satisfied employees are engaged, and that engaged employees deliver care resulting in higher patient satisfaction. It makes sense, right? 

If I'm treated or served by someone who's sincerely engaged, relates with me as a person, and enjoys the work he or she is doing, my experience and level of satisfaction is likely to be higher.  

Below are a few lessons we have learned on the HCAHPS journey that influence the employee’s environment:

Design for employee needs and comforts

  • Patient room design needs to provide adequate caregiver space at the bedside for the staff to interact with the patient. Ergonomic computer orientation, a place to sit, and an uncluttered and quiet environment go a long way to encourage meaningful conversation at the bedside. 
  • Collaboration areas where teams can talk and work together are critical to the new environment of care that fosters relationships and multidisciplinary teamwork. 
  • We all have different learning and work styles. It's important to offer places of respite and quiet for staff to collect their thoughts after a stressful moment and to work in a quiet place where they can concentrate. 
  • Staff lounges should be planned with as much thoughtfulness as the patient room. Common features of the patient room, like natural light, healing environments, noise reduction, and comfortable furniture should be included in the staff lounge. The days when staff eat their lunch in a crowded, windowless break room with coats and shoes piled next to the table should be long gone. 

Emphasize the arrival and departure of employees

  • Designers put a lot of time and energy into the entrances and the arrival experience for patients. It sends a great message to employees when their arrival entrance is designed with attention and detail that creates an atmosphere that transitions the employee from the outside world to the sacred work they're about to engage in. Inspirational artwork and music that replaces the bulletin board with notices and reminders might just start the day off with a smile. 
  • As employees exit to the parking lot, a thank you note or message of gratitude could help them transition back to their world and family. 

Encourage efficient spaces

  • A lot of attention has been paid to reducing walking distances and having supplies and equipment readily available when it's needed. Research supports that  having the tools and equipment to do the job correctly is one of the most important factors influencing the engaged employee.

Yes, we design for the patient; however, the patient is dependent upon those who care for him/her, and caring for the caregiver in design not only makes sense—it’s the right thing to do.

Terry Thurston is the Director of Healthcare Operational Planning at BSA LifeStructures and brings more than 30 years of healthcare experience as an expert in operational, occupancy, and transition planning. Her experience as a chief nursing and patient safety officer allows her to bring a multi-faceted approach to designing safe and efficient healthcare facilities.