Industry Voices—3 elements all pediatric healthcare units should have

Not all healthcare units are designed equally, and that is especially true for pediatric units.

Young patients require both special care and special healing spaces. To children, healing spaces cannot look stark and sterile, but should incite playfulness and provide hope. They must also take into account that more than just children and their doctors utilize these spaces, as parents, guardians and loved ones will stay by patients’ sides.

 According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nearly 6 million hospital stays involve adolescents, with nearly 3 million of those being neonatal stays. Designing separate child-friendly units may come at a higher price to design and construct, but it’s well worth the investment when it provides a better healing environment for those 6 million little ones.

Planning and designing these units can be done in a cost-effective and thoughtful manner to ensure premier patient care and economical design, without breaking the bank.

Dan Scher (Medxcel)

Therefore, all pediatric healthcare units much be:

  1. Safe. Safety is of utmost concern for all patients, but it’s especially pertinent when it involves children. Elements such as security cameras, timed access cards, limited-access elevators, alarm systems and well-defined signage should all be incorporated into pediatric care units. Outdoor play areas should also be properly secured.
  2. Engaging. Even as healthy children spend their time playing outdoors, coloring and watching movies, children in pediatric care units can lose sight of these fun activities while they receive treatment. To provide the best patient care possible, facilities should implement engaging, positive distractions into their units.

Examples of these engagements range from interactive butterfly walls and bright colors to outdoor play spaces and high-tech gathering spaces. Designers should strive to make the environment as normal as possible for children, even when their healthcare needs mean they can’t participate in “normal” environments. Keep children in mind and allow creativity to blossom within the healthcare space. This will provide many opportunities to integrate unique and engaging elements.  

  1. Healing. The ultimate goal for every patient is for them to fully and progressively heal. This cannot be forgotten during the planning, design and construction phase, especially for young patients. Consider natural light, noise control, privacy and positive distractions. If possible, treatment rooms should be kept separate from patient rooms to foster healing in those spaces, as well.

It’s also important that children have access to outdoor areas that provide their own playful and healing elements. Incorporate outdoor spaces into healing environments with gardens or playgrounds that let kids be kids. Indoor/outdoor connections can also minimize stress for children—and families.

It isn’t just children who utilize these spaces. Young patients are unique in that they often have parents or guardians who will be by their side throughout the duration of their stay. Because of this, families should be kept in mind when building healing spaces, as they must be accommodated in a comfortable and thoughtful environment.

Child patients require unique amenities, arrangements and care in pediatric facilities. By integrating special features and emphasizing healing, well-designed facilities can help hospitals’ littlest patients get healthy while staying engaged and in good spirits.

Dan Scher is the Vice President of Planning, Design and Construction at Medxcel, specializing in planning, design and construction of healthcare facilities. Medxcel provides healthcare service support products and drives in-house capabilities, savings and efficiencies for healthcare organizations that, in turn, improve the overall healing environment for patients and staff.