How do you inspire children who are sick, who are injured, who are fighting for their lives? How do you create spaces that nurture their imaginations and engage their senses of whimsy and joy? Drawing on our expertise in designing art programs and positive patient experiences, we know that appropriate and thoughtful art and design are key in helping children feel cared for in healthcare settings. To create supportive, holistic healing environments for kids and families, we suggest you follow these five key principles:
Start with a visioning session. Have stakeholders come together with a common goal of creating something unique, inspiring and engaging. Conduct an empathy mapping session with patients, families, staff and community members to dig deeper into how to create a supportive space. Include children in the visioning process through the use of gamestorming – fun, interactive tools for creative collaboration. Complete a thorough assessment of the existing environment in terms of wayfinding, environmental branding, patient and family comfort, positive distractions, staff satisfaction, ease of maintenance and market competition. Use this data to inform your vision, to be sure that future design solutions are the most appropriate for your organization.
Tell a story. Are you an innovative teaching hospital that emphasizes technology? A faith-based organization with exceptional patient care? Know what message you are trying to convey to patients, families and staff. Look at all aspects of your patient experience and determine how and where you can incorporate your organization’s story. Your parking garage, front entry, cafeteria, elevators, corridors and waiting areas should each contain a continuous thread of a story worth telling.
Design an experience. Instead of taking a patchwork approach to conveying your message, design a cohesive experience that integrates artwork, signage, wayfinding, interior finishes and furniture, environmental graphics, lighting and sound. Coordinate these interior elements through color, texture, shape and pattern. Keeping in mind your story and vision, select themes that help to unite and inspire the design, as well as engage children’s imaginations. Evaluate art and design solutions from the eyes of children and parents, as well as the clinical staff that provides care and support. Consider the emotional level of families when developing experiences. Include opportunities for supportive engagement that are multi-sensory, informational and interactive.
Create a variety of spaces. Value the diversity of your community and the needs of families by developing an assortment of environments in public spaces. In waiting areas, provide large open environments with grouped seating for big families as well as more intimate spaces for smaller families who may not have an extended support network. In spaces that are devoted to children, create communal and interactive experiences in addition to quiet and restorative experiences. Taking into account the variety of personalities and levels of health and mobility, offer different but equal opportunities for play, whimsy and imagination.
Measure results. Before construction or upgrades begin, know your objectives and the metrics by which these goals will be measured. Establish the time periods when measurements will take place. Allow users to adjust to an environment before conducting a post-occupancy evaluation. If initial results are not meeting the objectives, the collaboration team should devise and implement strategies for improvement and reevaluate after a set time. Even when a project is highly successful, the effectiveness should be reevaluated after several years to be sure that the art and design solutions are still appropriate. An environment that was clean and innovative when newly opened may not be as supportive to families after ten years when furnishings are worn and technology is outdated.
Incorporating these key principles into your long-range plans for your organization will help to facilitate positive patient experiences for patients, parents and staff. By valuing families and nurturing the spirits and imaginations of children through your environments, you will make the journey of healing a little bit easier.
For more information about how Aesthetics Inc. can help you create positive patient experiences, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography by John Durant, featuring Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego.