KU architecture students win competition on waiting room design

LAWRENCE — For patients and their families, a visit to the hospital can entail waiting outside the intensive care unit (ICU) or emergency room — and the wait isn’t always pleasant.

But a team of students from the University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design and Planning has tackled the topic of “waiting” in health care facilities and won an international competition for its efforts.

The team of students, all from KU lecturer Frank Zilm’s architecture class, has been named the winner of the 2011 Nurture Collegiate Healthcare Design Competition for its proposal on the issue of waiting in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The international competition required students to research challenges within the selected health care environment and prepare presentations on how to improve the environment and processes.

The winning proposal, titled “Nourish Newborns,” was submitted by KU students Lauren Gloriod, Sara Mae Martens, Rhaynelina Estevez, Lindsay Slavin and Alex Jones, who beat out 46 other entries from around the world. The KU team will take a trip to the annual HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference in Nashville underwritten by Nurture by Steelcase, the Center for Health Design and HEALTHCARE DESIGN magazine, and it also will be honored at an awards breakfast.

“The topic ‘waiting’ can be seen in a negative or positive context,” said Zilm, the Chester Dean Lecturer in Healthcare Design at KU and the team’s academic adviser for the competition. “On one hand, no one wants to wait, and waiting can be a symptom of a system that isn’t working efficiently. But on the other hand, there are times when waiting spaces can be an important element in supporting patient care. We focused on these settings, looking at supporting families of neonatal ICU infants, families of an ICU unit and patients waiting in at different stages of the emergency care process.”

For their proposal, the KU team tapped into existing research on ICU and NICU spaces and interviewed people with personal NICU waiting experiences. Research confirmed that family participation with neonates has a positive effect on the newborn; therefore, providing waiting spaces that care for the families would be crucial. More specifically, the team hypothesized that, in the NICU, the implementation of a range of spaces that provide support for waiting families will result in lower stress levels for families, comprehensive care for families, improved safety and increased market share.

Their solution was a design approach that divides the waiting area into three smaller areas with separate functions: 1) a quiet, meditative area; 2) an information area; and 3) a positive distraction space. The quiet, meditative space could include features such as an outdoor deck or patio with access to sunlight and fresh air, a small library of spiritual books and benches located in alcoves designed for personal alone time. The information area might include iPads, books and computers for families wanting to research medical-related issues. And the positive distraction space could include video-conferencing, TV, games, puzzles and a play area for children.

“It was great to have the entire design process revolve around research,” Slavin said. “Too often, research is put on the back burner due to time constraints, so it was nice to be able to sit down and do extensive research. That led to better design ideas because everything had research and serious thought behind it. I think we came up with a unique design approach in dividing the total space into three smaller areas, each with a specific function and theme. What’s more, I believe this design could be implemented at hospitals anywhere.”

Zilm used the Nurture Collegiate Healthcare Design Competition as a framework for his students’ spring semester curriculum. In fact, the winning team was one of three KU student teams from his class that entered the competition. All three teams were named among the competition’s seven finalists. And one team finished second to the winning KU team, earning honorable mention for its entry.

“These students obviously responded well to the challenge presented to them in this semester’s course,” Zilm said. “To have all three KU teams ranked among the seven finalists, and to have one team named the national winner and the other the honorable mention, speaks volumes about these students. They have a bright future ahead of them.”

Tue, 10/04/2011


Joe Monaco

Media Contacts

Joe Monaco

KU Office of Public Affairs