Impact of Design on Teamwork and Communication in a Med-Surg Unit

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March 6, 2023

Knowledge, Research


By Zahra Zamani, Chase Miller, and Jen Worley

Delivered in an Integrated Design Event (IDE) style, this hands-on focused approach utilized full-size mock-ups, allowing for brainstorming ideas and challenging the status quo. This approach empowered users to embrace the design, meaning they were a part of the decision-making process as active participants, not just providing periodic feedback to a design process outside their control.

This Lean approach to design also allowed for testing the seven flows of healthcare. This challenged the existing facility solution, current operational approaches to clinical services, identified operational savings, and potential patient and staff satisfaction opportunities. Patient care spaces were studied in greater detail. Options were considered to increase access to daylight, communication between caregivers and the patient, and improve wayfinding.

This project included the addition of forty-six new patient beds to the hospital. The current inpatient unit layout had two centralized care team stations with decentralized care team stations outside every patient room. During the design process, the staff reported a sense of isolation during shifts and longed for a more visual connection to the team, especially in emergent, critical situations.

We used space syntax to place the care team stations in higher visibility areas, potentially increasing the probability of impromptu conversation and teamwork. The resulting design layout included four large, centralized care team stations. The service corridors were also altered, in a shape of a cross, to improve access from each care team station to clinical support rooms. Post-construction, the designers and researchers developed a research plan to evaluate the initial hypothesis that the new layout enhances collaboration and communication. We employed surveys, systematic observation, and shadowing to understand the nature of communication and collaboration patterns in the context of the physical environment.

Impact of Design on Teamwork and Communication in a Med-Surg Unit