How can you better design a hospital? Start with the light

How can you better design a hospital Start with the

Just like medical care has evolved from bleeding to germ theory, the medical places in which patients have changed have also changed. Today, architects and designers are trying to find ways to make hospitals more comfortable, with the hope that quiet spaces will lead to better comfort. But building for healing involves just as much sympathy as compiling cold, hard data.

"Perhaps part of the best care is to keep people calm, giving them a place to be alone - things that may seem trivial but are very important," said Annmarie Adams , a professor at McGill University who studies the history of hospital architecture.

In the 19th century, the famous nurse Florence Nightingale liked the plan of the pavilion, which included wards: large rooms with long rows of beds, large windows, lots of natural light, and plenty of over - ventilation. These designs have been informed by the theory that indoor hazards spread diseases. But wards offered patients almost no privacy and needed enough space, something that became increasingly difficult to find in growing cities. They also meant a lot of walking for nurses, who had to go up and down the corridors.

Over the next century, that focus on natural light shifted away from prioritizing sterile areas that prevented the spread of germs and accepted a growing number of medical devices. After World War I, it was common to assemble patient rooms around a nursing station. These designs were easier on nurses, no longer having to walk long corridors, and cheaper to heat and build. But they retained some of the seizures of older residential treatment facilities, such as sanatoria where patients would grow long for a period of time; both mimicked fancy hotels with fancy lobbies and fine dining, measures that were intended to convince middle-class people “that they were better off in hospitals than at home when they are very ill, ”Adams wrote in a 2022 article on hospital architecture for the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. This design, she said, aimed to give people in the institution faith: "a tool of persuasion, not healing."

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In the late 1940s and 1950s, hospitals transformed again, this time into office - like buildings with no frills or many features that meant they developed an experience. “It was truly designed to be proactive and effective,” says Jessie Reich, director of patient experience and magnet programs for the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Many of those rooms had no windows at all, she says.

By the mid - 20th century, the hospital had fallen short of Florence Nightingale's expectations, and many of these buildings, or those that were later modeled, are still in use today. “The typical hospital is designed as a tool for delivering care, but not as a place for healing,” said Sean Scensor, principal of Safdie Architects, a firm that recently designed a hospital in Cartagena, Colombia. “I think what is needed is empathy for people as human beings. ”

Although Nightingale had largely worked on documentary evidence that light and ventilation were important, she had been right - but it took scientists over a century to gather the quantitative data to restore it. . For example, the 1984 baseline study published in Science follow patients after gallbladder surgery. The 25 patients with scenes of greenery had shorter hospital stays and took fewer burn pills than the 23 patients with false-walled windows.

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