Private spaces energize introverts and social spaces energize extroverts. If the population is divided equally between introverts and extroverts, then what are we doing in hospitals to address the needs of both populations? We’ll explore that topic in this blog series, first looking at provisions for hospital staff.

Typically, the nurses’ station is designed with a tightly lined-up open work area equipped with armless chairs, possibly a rolling pedestal for each staff member, and a computer. Physicians, however, may have a semi-enclosed bank of workstations or cubbies off the main nurses’ station with basically the same accommodations. In addition, if collaboration is required with other physicians or with a nurse, a perching station and/or conference table are often provided but also out in the open.

Talking rooms located directly adjacent to nurses’ stations have proven effective as spaces where introverts might discuss a touchy topic or simply step away. These rooms could be paneled enclosures that offer space for private conversations and significant quietude away from the activity of the nurses’ station. The extrovert may be energized by constant conversations and interaction, but the introvert will likely require such periodic escapes to organize his or her thoughts.

The nursing staff also invests significant time with very sick patients, particularly when it comes to long hospital stays in a cancer unit, for example. Where do they go to regroup after losing a patient? Introverts may need to escape the area completely and find a courtyard or chapel that gives them more time to decompress. The extrovert, however, may be satisfied to recover in a nearby break room. The difference is the degree of exposure and the feeling of safety in expressing one’s feelings.

The introvert believes in sensitivity with spoken interaction and may not discuss patient conditions with family members in the patient room, fearing lack of honest dialogue in front of the patient. What is the proximity of a consultation room or private space? Is it conceivable that there is none available or is it too far away in an urgent situation? The extroverted staff member, on the other hand, may not be bothered by that quest for privacy and could even be energized by enlisting more people in the conversation who have expertise to offer.

While the introvert needs an environment that accommodates silent collection of thoughts, the extrovert is more comfortable with constant vitality in the space and often needs no special support from the design. The best design will offer considerations for both introverts and extroverts equally.

Libby Laguta, CHID, EDA, ACHE, is a principal at L2D Interior Design and president of the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers. She can be reached at