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Guest Columnist Author: Alan Rheault, Director of Industrial Design, Nurture Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Time for Change

By Alan Rheault, Director of Industrial Design, Nurture
Nov 20, 2013 - 6:03:34 PM

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(  - Significant shifts are adding complexity to the healthcare system as new challenges interface with new opportunities. New technologies and expanding data are driving new processes. Rising costs and unacceptable outcomes are causing healthcare leaders to shift from an illness based system to a wellness driven model. A quantity based, fee for service model is giving way to bundled care, medical homes and other approaches that tie reimbursement to outcome.

Through all of this change, clinicians are front and center to play a key role in shaping the healthcare environment and patient outcomes.  However, to manage this role effectively, their own wellbeing must not be overlooked. At Nurture by Steelcase, we performed 18 studies involving 15,000 hours of
observation which yielded some new insights. For instance, we know that every so often, a clinician may need a few minutes of privacy for a personal phone call or just to regain their calm during an intense day. The clinician needs to decompress for a few minutes but also does not want to leave the nursing floor. In the majority of healthcare facilities it is an exception to have spaces designed for this purpose. However it could be effectively and easily addressed by a completely enclosed "phone booth", a small getaway place that provides a big return in terms of humanizing the work environment and improving clinicians' wellbeing.

It's common for clinicians in acute care settings to become so consumed with taking care of patients that they neglect their own wellbeing. In Nurture's 2013 Clinician Report, we found that risk of patient injury (31%) is a greater concern amongst surveyed clinicians and nurses than risk of personal injury (20%). Despite the fact that 35% of clinicians and nurses report being injured at least once on the job while 24% had to modify activity or movement during at least one shift. Intentional design of the work environment and the equipment within that environment and how it is aligned with patient and caregiver needs is something that can have a profound effect on patient outcomes and behavior overall.

Nearly half of the clinicians surveyed cite at least one injury and/or one patient injury while on-the-job. The bulk of injuries are due to patient transfers, where one in three clinicians and nurses have experienced an injury in moving patients from bed to chair. Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed perform patient transfers more than once a week. With such significant numbers it is clear that in order for our healthcare system to truly move towards a wellbeing model we must consider all parties in the ecosystem; patients, providers and partners.

Space is tight within most or all healthcare settings, and clinicians often make do with inefficient, uncomfortable work positions like crouching to use a knee as a writing surface or bending over to lock a recliner chair. Some furniture currently used  in healthcare settings does not adjust to different body types, postures or work processes, increasing the risk of work-related injuries. The report found that in turn clinicians try to maintain their own health and safety on the job, most clinicians and nurses rely on help from colleagues (74%) or choose to stay fit (65%).

While half of clinicians surveyed feel their work environment is supportive in preventing discomfort, injury or pain, the most desired change clinicians and nurses want out of their work environment centers around updating equipment and furniture (25%) followed by rearranging the physical space to be better aligned with patient needs (23%). Faced with such sweeping changes, healthcare organizations shouldn't overlook an asset that's highly leverageable and pivotal to success: their spaces. There is a significant opportunity to strategically rethink how healthcare spaces can dramatically improve the experiences of everyone involved.

Alan Rheault, Director of Industrial Design, Nurture

Focused on research and design intent, Alan Rheault has been Director of Industrial Design since 2005. He is part of the core team that launched the Nurture brand. Under his leadership, Nurture has developed a number of innovative, award-winning products, including OpusTM Over Bed Table, modular caregiver station solution SyncTM, and mobile workstation solution PocketTM. Rheault is among HealthCare Design Magazine's top 10 product designers of the year (2009). He has more than 17 years of experience with Steelcase.


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