5 elements for a healthy medical lounge
August 21, 2017
August 21, 2017
When done right, medical staff lounges are an essential part of the healthcare workplace
By Samantha Gotta
What happened to the doctor’s lounge? Senior physicians often recall the lounge as the buzzing hub of the hospital where they traded news and bonded with their peers. This social interaction is important. Medical interns tell us they learn the most about their profession via the personal encounters during physician’s rounds.
Doctors-only rooms are increasingly rare today, but these anecdotes tell us how medical professionals and institutions benefit from connections made throughout the day and the necessity of collaboration and peer interaction in healthcare settings.
If the medical care team lounge exists at all today, it’s a drab afterthought. They are windowless boxes with artificial light and limited furniture—an undesirable third place. With belt-tightening efforts in healthcare facilities, these spaces are often the first to go or be converted to other purposes. But these lounges are actually quite important. I think it’s time we took them more seriously as an essential part of the medical workplace.
Taking an evidence-based design approach, our healthcare design team wanted to shed some light on the kind of spaces the medical care team needs to do its work. We surveyed, tracked, and diagrammed the spaces where doctors and hospital staff interact with others, do solo work, research, and meet with others throughout their day. We observed that the medical team members spend much of their day working outside the exam room. Often, they’re in hallways, small break rooms or semi-public spaces—this is where work happens, but it’s less than ideal and often it’s uncomfortable.
In short, the medical care team lounge is a place where members can nurture all the important aspects of being a professional outside of an exam room. Social connection and collaboration between members, professional development, research, and communication all happen here. Contemplation and revitalization too.
Social connection is important for the healthcare team. Getting to know their coworkers personally, members feel more comfortable professionally—they come to work more inspired; they share ideas, information, and issues. These lounges promote informal information sharing that’s crucial to good organizations and doesn’t happen when the care team is siloed in private offices.
Ultimately, we’re talking about a type of workplace. Our colleagues in workplace design know that schemes like open plans can promote collaboration, break down walls between departments and roles, and allow information to be shared internally. So, ideally these hospital lounges have that buzz of inspiring, collaborative office spaces and are places where medical professionals can team up on research or stay up on the latest practices—ultimately resulting in better, more efficient care.
Practically speaking, today’s medical professionals need space where they can perform research and communications online, make private phone calls, or have one-on-one conversations. Medical shifts can be long and stress can be high, so the lounge needs to be a space where decompression and contemplation takes place too. But these spaces should also open up as needed. The lounges can double as gathering spaces for team functions or even for lectures and events open to the public.
Now that we’ve implemented these care team lounges on several healthcare projects, we have a good idea of what makes them flourish.
When we need them, our healthcare team works hard to take care of us. It’s time they had a place where they can take care of themselves.