Why Your Doctor’s Office has an Aquarium: 5 Considerations for Medical Environments
When you think about past experiences you have had in medical offices, you might recall a cold, sterile environment alongside feelings of anxiety, stress or even pain. That windowless waiting area, the barren exam room, and the echoing hallway all dialing up your stress in prep for an uncomfortable conversation or procedure. Let’s face it, no one really likes to see the doctor.
What if the medical office environment could be redesigned to increase patient comfort and reduce patient stress? It might be easier than you think. Here are 5 simple considerations to enhance a medical office environment:
1. Lighting: Maximizing daylight and natural light in doctors’ offices saves money and promotes well-being. A little sunshine has long-standing benefits for health. Swapping out those cold, fluorescent bulbs for more natural light is an obvious choice for patient waiting areas. In procedure and exam rooms, however, function and precision prevail. Task lighting in these areas should be 50-100 foot candles, or a 5:1 ratio task to decorative lighting. (1)
2. Sound: This is an important consideration in any workplace, but has serious implications for medical offices regarding patient privacy. Monitoring volume (without content) through acoustic monitoring system can give data to inform this process. If it’s an issue, consider sound panels, dampening systems, or even a white noise machine. Remember, no one wants to hear what’s going on in the exam room next door.
3. Color: You can use color to calm patient anxiety and promote feelings of well-being. Blues and greens make people feel safe (as opposed to red, for example, which increases alertness). (1) When choosing art for patient areas, a careful and deliberate choice can make a huge difference to the patient who may be staring at it for prolonged periods of time. Looking at landscape art, for example, activates pleasure centers in the brain according to one research study. (3)
4. Natural Elements: Bringing the outside in has the potential to make ill-feeling patients experience feelings of restoration. The addition of live plants increase feelings of health and vitality (3). There is good reason for the ever-present aquarium in doctors’ offices too, as they tend to put patients at ease and help patients better connect to others (4), which is especially important when discussing personal health information.
5. Personalization: Employees who do not participate in personalizing their workplaces have been shown to be less satisfied with their work (2), and we all know there is nothing worse than a grumpy nurse! Moreover, when patients see personal touches around the office, they view healthcare workers as individuals, and therefore can better relate to them. This, too, may open up communication pathways that could otherwise be difficult.
Making changes in the workplace can be daunting. The easiest way to start the process is with a comprehensive workplace environmental assessment. OMH Solutions environmental/ ergonomic assessment team are here to help you start this process.
Nikki Weiner OTD, OTR/L
1. Guth: Lighting for Demanding Environments. Lighting Design- Footcandle Recommendation. [Online] [Cited: January 3, 2017.] http://www.bristolite.com/interfaces/media/Footcandle%20Recommendations%20by%20Guth.pdf.
2. Friedman, Ron. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. New York : Perigee, 2014.
3. Perceptual Pleasure and the Brain. Vessel, Irving Biederman & Edward A. s.l. : Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, 2006, Vol. 94.
4. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Ulrich, RS. 4647, s.l. : Science, 1984, Vol. 224.
5. Effects of Watching Aquariums on Elders' Stress. Riddick, Mary M DeSchriver & Carol Culter. 1, s.l. : Anthrozoos, 1990, Vol. 4.