The art of designing hospitals for children

The dual goals of designing pediatric hospitals that signal permanence and confidence, yet also seem noninstitutional and playful are "in many ways at cross-purposes," an executive at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told Hospitals & Health Networks.

The article talks to hospital executives and design architects about ways to uncross those purposes.

Surprisingly, pediatric hospitals need more space than traditional hospitals to accommodate different sizes of beds, child life services including classrooms and teen lounges, and rooms large enough for supportive families to gather, according to the article. A small table in the room for families to play games, children to color or the family to gather and eat can make the room "feel a little more like home," Karen S. Freeman, director of healthcare planning for design firm Stanley Beaman & Sears in Atlanta, told HHN.

Pediatric hospitals also need to consider the design for the families of patients who are regular hospital visitors as well as those new to their surroundings because of a traumatic injury or diagnosis, the article noted. Check-in kiosks can speed the process for regulars, while creative "wayfinding" cues featuring unique visual imagery can help newcomers find their way.

Safety and security concerns also are different for pediatric facilities, according to the article. At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, a rooftop garden is surrounded by a six-foot-high glass rail so children can't climb up and over. Patient rooms should feature visibility over privacy, since children can't always communicate distress, Freeman said in the article.  

Some argue that patient satisfaction ratings might improve if adult hospitals modeled themselves after pediatric hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported. That's because children's hospitals are designed to reduce stress, provide positive distractions and cater to patients and families rather than caregivers.

In addition to fostering innovative design, pediatric hospitals increasingly are adding "child life" staff to focus on patients' emotional health, including developing programs to help children feel less stress during their visits, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Staff members provide games, movies, crafts, art supplies and emotional support as children undergo lengthy or painful procedures, or navigate their way through a long, boring day in the hospital.

To learn more:
- read the H&HN article