How many miles do you think a nurse walks during a typical hospital shift? If you guessed about five miles – you must be one! Experts suggest nurses may hike close to five miles each day, primarily because hospitals weren’t designed with them in mind.
The average hospital infrastructure is 30 to 40 years old. On some floors, important functions, such as nourishment rooms, are located far from a nurse's typical routes. Supplies may be stocked in different rooms, making nurses “hunt and gather” just to get what they need to treat patients. Even corridors can be crowded with people and equipment, forcing nurses to take extra steps while threading through traffic.
Poor design, closet clutter and crowded corridors lead to more walking, fatigue and distractions that can hurt patient care quality and result in higher medical costs. But that’s changing.
Cornell assistant professor of design and environmental analysis Rana Zadeh studies floor plans and work patterns at hospitals in search of ways to boost nurse efficiency through better design. She’s found that even seemingly minor changes that improve a facility’s layout for better caregiver workflow can produce significant benefits.
Zadeh compares the challenges facing many nurses to that of a pilot whose controls are spread throughout the cabin of a plane instead of being in the cockpit. “New medical practices and technology have emerged during the past decade, and facility design should adapt to these changing practices so that caregivers can perform better on their critical tasks,” she says.
The good news is that even older buildings can be re-designed to meet today’s nursing needs, and Zadeh’s research offers planners, designers and managers the tools to make their work processes more efficient.
So, maybe the next generation of nurses won’t have to walk five miles a day to care for their patients!