Design Collaborative’s mission – to improve people’s worlds, is the first thing that our teams think about when they begin to design. In healthcare design specifically, this extends to reducing stress for patients, family, and staff, maximizing safety and prevention of infection, promoting efficient and timely care, accommodating current and future technology, and providing a healing environment for patients. Let’s look at how we can best design for patients, family, and staff through the lens of patient care units in a hospital.


For a typical patient care unit, separate access is needed for both patients and family, as well as staff and service personnel. Patient care units need to be located in a semi-isolated area so that unnecessary traffic can be avoided. Rooms are positioned on the exterior for views of the outdoors and maximum daylight exposure. This promotes the healing process beyond meeting code requirements and design guidelines.

Parkview Physicians Group 11055 Twin Creeks Cove Hallway
Parkview Physicians Group 11055 Twin Creeks Cove Hallway

Patient Care Units Positioned For Ease of Staff and Privacy of Patients

Patient care units are typically directly accessed by the lab and pharmacy departments so that staff from those departments can efficiently access patients throughout the day. The units need to be organized in a way that promote efficient travel for staff, minimizing walking distances to increase the time they are caring for patients.

There are many different types of patient care units. In smaller hospitals, all units may be located together. In larger hospitals, they are typically separated by the type of care that’s required.

Some patient care unit types include:

        • Medical/Surgical
        • Oncology
        • Pediatric and Adolescent Oncology
        • Intermediate Care
        • Critical Care
        • Coronary Critical Care
        • Pediatric Critical Care
        • Newborn Intensive Care
        • Obstetrical
        • Nursery
        • Pediatric and Adolescent
        • Psychiatric
        • Skilled Nursing
        • Bariatric Care
Patient Care - Exam Room
Patient Care - Exam Room

To determine the number of beds needed, our design team works with hospital personnel to calculate the total number of patients that are anticipated for their market area. Even though we use a process to give our best estimate for the total bed need, there is no guarantee that we can accurately predict how many patients any given hospital will see at once.

When planning a patient room, our team must consider many variables: who will use the room besides the patient? What environment are they in? What procedures will happen here? What issues, like safety and privacy, are there to consider? It’s easy to see that there are many aspects of care that go into planning a patient care unit.

There are many different types of patient care unit department configurations that have developed over the past 50 years. The layout used most often in current design is the racetrack configuration, which puts the care team and other support spaces in the center of the patient care units. This allows the care team more direct access to patient rooms with less walking distance. It also puts the patients in individual spaces for care and privacy issues, positioned where they can easily get the attention of care staff when necessary.

Van Wert Health Surgery and Inpatient Center Surgery Expansion Nurses Station
Van Wert Health Surgery and Inpatient Center Surgery Expansion Nurses Station
Van Wert Health North

Intentional Design Creates a Lasting Impression

Aside from departmental unit efficiencies, the primary opportunity for a hospital to leave an impression with their patients comes through the intentional design of patient rooms. A patient should feel a sense of security, such as safety from falling, or feeling attended to by the care staff. They should also have a good sense of privacy for the duration of their stay, and a sense of dignity from the manner of care that they receive. Amenities play a big role in providing these perceptions, like the position of the restroom and designated family zones for accommodating loved ones.

Van Wert Health North

The headwall is the wall at the patient’s head where medical gases, power, over-bed lighting, and nurse call are located. There can be monitors or computers at the headwall as well. With all of these different services and devices, our challenge is to design them in a way that they are accessible to staff, but at the same time are done in an aesthetically pleasing way so the room doesn’t look too intimidating or clinical.

Van Wert Health Surgery and Inpatient Center Surgery Expansion Large Patient Room
Van Wert Health Surgery and Inpatient Center Surgery Expansion Large Patient Room

Patients and their families value healthcare spaces where they feel safe, cared for, clean, and where current technology is utilized. Healthcare staff also value spaces that make them feel cared for, allow them to take the best care of their patients that they can, and that offer all of the tools they need to perform their best. All of this starts with careful planning and design of your healthcare space. Explore more options for your space by getting in touch with a design professional and improving peoples’ worlds!

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