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I've been advocating for creating environments that help comfort and support patients, families, and staff since the early 1990s. During that time, I've seen many planning, design, and product innovations that have significantly contributed to positive patient and staff outcomes.

And yet it often takes a personal experience to remind me that the work so many of us do in the field of healthcare design matters.

My 87-year old mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s for 13 years and was in the final stages of the disease, fell and broke her hip in September. We decided against surgery and put her in hospice care at Carle Bro-Menn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.

Positive Distractions Help Calm Patients

When I walked into her room for the first time several days after she was admitted to hospice care, The C.A.R.E. Channel was playing on the TV. My mom's eyes were not open so she was not watching the nature scenes, but I know she could hear the music.

Healing Healthcare Systems (HHS), the company that produces The C.A.R.E. Channel, has been a client of mine. C.A.R.E.'s beautiful nature imagery and instrumental music helps relax patients by masking unwanted noise. It provides a positive distraction that has many health benefits.

I no longer work for HHS, but C.A.R.E. programming is, hands-down, the best relaxation programming available for patients.

And I'm so glad it was available for my mom and my family while she was in the hospital.

The hospice nurses could not say enough great things about The C.A.R.E. Channel. They feel it is a real comfort for patients. They were also happy to learn that they, too, could download an app on their phone and access C.A.R.E. programming when they weren't at the hospital.

Natural Light Makes a Big Difference

I was also pleased with the design features and layout of my mom's large corner room. It had big windows that let in a lot of natural light. The family zone had a round table that four of us could eat at, as well as a sleeper sofa.

The overhead and task lighting wasn't so great and the materials and finishes could have used a facelift, but for the most part, the room had all the components of a healing environment.

When I commented to the head hospice nurse about how large and comfortable the room was, she said, "We fought very hard for these rooms. It was important to us that it be a supportive space for families to be with their loved ones."

How nice to hear that coming from a nurse.

Design Everywhere Matters

Sadly, my mom passed away four days after she was admitted to hospice care at Carle Bro-Menn. We were able to be with her until the end with The C.A.R.E. Channel gently playing in the background and the light streaming in the windows.

Yes, healthcare design matters.  So does design everywhere.

But in healthcare, the stakes are so much higher because patients and their families are dealing with stress and in some cases, compromised immune systems, brought on by a medical condition. Or in the case of staff, stress and exhaustion from the extraordinary emotional and physical demands of their job.

All of us who have worked in the healthcare design field should be proud of the work we've done for the past 30+ years to push this idea forward. We have made a difference.

Keep up the good work, everyone!

P.S. Please do me a favor -- if you liked this post and like this blog, please share it with others by sending them the link or posting it on your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Also, don't forget to subscribe, so you'll get emails when new content is posted. Thanks!

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Leave a comment

Wayne Ruga

4 years ago

...indeed, we have made a huge difference - - -
let's not stop here....

Marjorie Serrano

4 years ago

What an encouraging article Sara. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and not avoiding using a brand name. Excellence should be applauded.

Your description of sunlight reminds me how important outside views, even if only of the sky, are essential to the well-being of all healthcare workers. Everyone involved in healthcare design should be fighting for outside views for staff areas including break rooms, group offices, staff work areas, and even back hallways. This is especially important in surgical areas and all areas now that most nurses work 12-hour shifts and can go several days without being in sunlight.

It is necessary for those for us who plan & design to fight for this because many decision makers do not recognize the needs. Those leaders who work in spaces with windows and/or go outside the facility during the day have no first hand experience with the long term negative effects of enclosed work areas. Even nurses who have worked without windows for so long do not recognize what they are missing. Sure patient rooms have windows, but the last thing any worker has time for in a patient room is to enjoy the view. How many times have we placed conference rooms on an outside wall and covered all windows with blackout shades necessary to see audiovisuals? This pandemic has brought to light the trauma that healthcare workers endure daily. The problems have always been there. We can do better.

Sara Marberry

4 years ago

Thanks for your comments, Marjorie. We probably still can do better, but have made a lot of progress on convincing healthcare facility decision makers on the value of bringing natural light into healthcare facilities!

Jennie Griggs

4 years ago

Experience teaches better than any other endeavor. I have followed you (and plan to continue to do so) for a long time with respect and admiration. I consider it a privilege and learning experience to continue reading your blogs and educational materials. I do not have to tell you that the majority of the aging population does not have the financial means to exist in facilities such as those you described in your blog. In my encore years, I am experiencing another side of the spectrum. I have never been a designer but for a multitude of years had been engaged in the commercial design space in various leadership roles for the aging population. Today, I am fortunate to play a leadership role in another space, senior engagement centers. It is here that my eyes have seen such a diverse population in need of leadership, love, and change agents. We are ignorant if we feel and believe what was... is the answer.
Blessings to you for your passion. The real story and answers lie with day to day living that can change in a COVID heartbeat. It's time to get real. Blessings to you and your family for what you do and believe. I am available anytime for conversation.

Sara Marberry

4 years ago

Thanks for your comments, Jennie. I'm well aware that many do not have the resources to access the type of care/facilities that my mom was in. But I have always believed that design is for everyone, no matter how rich or poor they are. People managing facilities can make choices to improve the design of the environment that doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

Len Berry

4 years ago

A beautiful message Sara. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

Sara Marberry

4 years ago

Thanks, Len!

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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