One of my previous posts focused on the patient room as the epicenter of the patient experience and the cause and effect of the Patient Room Environment > Patient Experience > Patient Satisfaction > HCAHPS Scores. 

The experiential impact of the nursing unit on the family and the staff (caregiver) is just as influential on the overall patient experience as the individual patient’s own experience paradigm. Introducing a family retreat and a staff retreat into the design of the nursing unit can contribute to an improved patient experience and, ultimately, HCAHPS scores.

Over the years, designers have contributed to family and visitor satisfaction by focusing on an improved family zone environment in the patient room—from overnight sleeping accommodations with privacy, to Internet access, to personal televisions, to expanded seating options and bathing facilities.

A family retreat space is an improved visitor lounge and increases visitor privacy by giving the family an area that they can essentially “take over.” A retreat space with views to the outdoors and plenty of natural light helps link the interior and exterior environments of the facility.

Of course, other provisions, like a kitchenette for beverages and nourishments, a seating area with Internet access, a child’s play area, and background music all contribute to a soothing and satisfying family experience.

Designing spaces specifically for families and visitors will contribute to satisfying patients and making the healing environment as comfortable as possible. 

An example of a family retreat area.

A staff retreat area is intended to be separate from support areas like staff lounges or staff conference rooms. The staff retreat’s purpose is to provide a respite area for caregivers to relax and recharge from the stressful healthcare environment.

Designing spaces that allow a caregiver to relax helps them stay engaged and focused on helping patients heal. The staff retreat needs to be a quiet environment with pleasing views, natural light, comfortable seating, and distractions from their daily work. 

An example of a staff respite area.

The patient room is very important to achieving a positive healing experience, but so are accommodations for a family and staff, which play an important part in a patient’s healing and overall satisfaction.

Monte Hoover is a Principal at BSA LifeStructures and has over 30 years of professional planning and architectural design experience for healthcare campuses. Monte is a strong proponent of evidence-based design and helped create LifeStructures Metrics—the firm’s vehicle that links facility design to measurable outcomes. He is a nationally recognized thought leader in master planning and was named by HEALTHCARE DESIGN as one of the “Twenty People Making a Difference.” He can be reached at For more information, please vist