As North Carolina and much of the country transition out of the stay-at-home orders, the impact and presence of COVID-19 on most of our conscious is starting to ease. We still have an obligation and necessity to recognize social distancing and proper sanitization, but day-to-day fears and isolation have begun to fade – at least for now.
While our communities make this transition, employees of the healthcare industry remain on the front lines and continue to face a maximum impact on their daily lives. During this slow progression back to normal, it’s critical we remain supportive of those keeping us all healthy – our nurses, doctors, and providers. As design professionals, we must consider their needs as we plan for and guide our clients in evaluating current and future healthcare facilities.
Some impacts on healthcare professionals are obvious and measurable. Nurses and providers are wearing considerable protective equipment for long periods of time resulting in discomfort, exhaustion, and stress. Despite this added stress, there remains a need for hypervigilance as they interact with the patients and families of those affected. For these reasons, we must closely (re)evaluate the following:
- 10-12-hour shifts with minimal breaks and personal space and time
- The integration of more private, respite areas
- Privacy of nurse stations
- Design and proximity of break rooms
If we want our nurses and doctors to provide the highest level of care to us and our family, we too must provide the same level of thoughtfulness and care for them and their work environment. Patient care at the forefront of design has been ingrained in us as design professionals and reinforced through evidence-based design, and for good reason. This priority should not be altered; we must also be equally as diligent in designing and planning facilities that support the needs of the providers. The design approach must consider the potential need for social distancing, space, and access of PPE as well as thoughtful solutions that allow our caregivers opportunities to recharge, decompress and maintain their mental and emotional wellness. The COVID-19 pandemic may be waning, but thoughtful and responsible design will always be necessary.