Patient Engagement

The Waiting Room

Note: This post originally appeared on the Oakville Hospital Foundation’s Blog

“I’m not sure what’s worse, the waiting or the waiting room,” the opening line to one of my favourite songs, Accidents by Alexisonfire. Many hospital waiting rooms beg this question however, after my tour of the construction site of the new Oakville Hospital, the answer is easy. The waiting is worse.

Though no one ever wants to be sick or injured, the Oakville Hospital promises to give patients, families, friends, staff, and healthcare practitioners the best experience possible. One of the ways in which they are doing this is by making waiting rooms as welcoming and comfortable as possible for nervous patients and family members. Each waiting room has a unique feature – a fireplace. It is the small details like this that make the new Oakville Hospital an exceptional example of patient-centred design.

Huge floor-to-ceiling windows greet those who pull up to the front of the hospital. These windows are intended to give you an idea of where you need to go before you even enter the doors. Entering through the main west door brings you to a giant light-filled atrium complete with a grand piano and a beautiful fireplace. A major focus in the hospital design was to permeate as many areas as possible with natural light.

Those who must enter the hospital in the emergency department will no longer wait for hours alongside those who are sick – an important health and safety consideration.  Instead, patients will be triaged immediately and then moved to different waiting areas, depending on their needs. This aids in a number of other ways, including that patients are waiting closer to where they will receive care, and clinical staff are more efficiently and quickly able to get treatment to their patients.

The part of the tour that impressed me the most was the Complex Continuing Care area.  The rooms boast floor to ceiling windows – a small but important detail for healing.  Patients need to be able to orient themselves (i.e. see the ground outside), instead of only the sky, to maintain a sense of their surroundings. Patients can also use the giant rooftop garden to enjoy the outdoors, or for rehabilitation. Regular outdoor activity is an important part of the rehabilitative process, but there are specific areas for actual rehab therapies, including a rehab courtyard on the main level. If they are feeling well enough they can eat their meals in a dining room on their floor to maintain their social connections and a sense of community.

Another “small” detail that is easily overlooked is that every hand sanitizer dispenser is recessed into the wall. This was a design feature achieved through consultation with nursing staff, and is intended to  minimize hallway obstructions.

Finally, patients can wait in the Discharge Lounge, a comfy and cozy room where they can be picked up right outside the door! How is that for front door service? The Discharge Lounge allows for a patient room to be freed for use and a space for ambulatory patients to await pick up.

There are many more details that I could share about the patient (and healthcare practitioner)-centred design, but I think I will end this blog post by answering another question that is asked in Accidents. “Do they even cure you? Or is it just to humour us…?” Well, at the new Oakville Hospital the answer seems to be not only a cure for an ailment – but actual and complete healing.

– Melanie Goodfellow, November 2014

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