Core77 Design Awards
- Other Years
The work of doctors and nurses demands intensive sharing of highly technical information throughout the long and varied workday, under highly stressful situations. Yet at the same time, they must remain emotionally engaged and empathetic. Working in partnership with furniture company Steelcase, a team of multi-disciplinary researchers at Virginia Tech examined how to integrate digital technologies with the design of the physical environment. The goal was to reduce clinician burnout by ensuring information flow that is accurate, current, and easily understood, especially during emergencies when stress and emotions are acute.
The innovation in our research-based design stemmed from the composition of a team that drew from departments across the university, and a design research strategy that employed multiple modes of observational studies and prototyping. Our team comprising human factors researchers, architects, industrial designers, and computer engineers collaborated with clinicians from Carilion Clinics and researchers of WorkSpace Futures at Steelcase. The complexity of medical workspaces required a team that can cross-examine problems through multi-disciplinary lenses. Our designs, which integrate technologies in the design of the environment to increase human communications, could only result from a synthesis of our expertise.
We conducted ethnographic studies through interviews and visual observation of clinicians at hospitals, a dispatch center, and a simulation center used to train clinicians. While shadowing them, we identified conditions that both aid and hinder their work flow. Based on our findings, we generated numerous design concepts for nurse stations at ICU, where clinician stress is extremely high and the need for team interaction is critical.
In one scheme, we reimagined the traditional U-shaped nurses' station that provides panoptic views of all patients. Inspired by a pilot's cockpit and an air traffic control center, the station becomes a central command center in which multiple display screens are arranged around the nurses' seats to reflect the plan arrangement of the patient rooms. Another was a decentralized, distributed nurses' station that reimagined the overbed side table found in patient rooms. The table not only held meal trays and personal belongings, but also functioned as a display screen with which clinicians can share information with each other or patients, and patients can hold Zoom calls with family or clinicians. In both schemes, the goal was to enable accurate and easy flow of information, and increase situational awareness among clinicians. We rapidly mocked up selected design schemes at full scale in foamcore that could easily be marked, taped, and modified. We engaged a range of stakeholders at each step of the process and imparted agency to a variety of users to intuitively grasp the design and provide feedback.
The wellbeing of clinicians is essential to the delivery of quality healthcare to patients in a timely, accurate, and caring manner. Our pre-design research with a multi-disciplinary team highlighted obstacle in clinician's workflow, to which we responded with designs that integrated information capabilities into the physical design of furniture and equipment, using full-scale mockups and digital simulations to seek further input to create an iterative design-input cycle.