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When asked what I'm trying to change during an online marketing seminar this past week, I wrote, "I want to change how we think about the physical environment's impact on health."

This, of course, was way too vague.  So, I revised it.  "I want to change healthcare professionals' thinking that design is just about making things look good instead of looking at how it affects health and well-being."

More discussion followed.

New vs. Old Healthcare Environments

People wanted to know if front-line healthcare staff thinks very much about the design of their physical work environment. Or if they can recognize the difference between a healthcare environment that promotes health and well-being and one that does not.

I'm not sure they do either of these things. But does it matter?

Maybe.  But thanks to mounting evidence, many healthcare leaders and managers now understand that the design of the physical environment can improve both the patient and the staff experience.

Is it up to them to educate and inform their front-line staff?  Because often it's not until staff sees the "new" that they understand how bad the "old" was. And sometimes they still want the old.

The Mattress Analogy

I think it’s like buying a new mattress for your bed. My husband had been insisting that our 20+ mattress was "fine."

This despite all the evidence and expert opinions that it was not.

Old mattresses harbor all sorts of bacteria, mold, dust mites, etc. that may cause allergies.  They also may have been constructed with harmful chemicals.  And, they no longer offer great support, which can affect sleep quality.

So, I went out and bought a new mattress last weekend. Why?

Because I wanted to sleep better and be healthier. I believe the evidence and expert opinions.

Hopefully, my husband will see that the new is definitely better than the old. Unlike a new healthcare facility, though, we can return it after 120 nights if we don't like it.

But we can't get our old mattress back.

Changing Perceptions Isn't Easy

Now that I've thought about it some more, maybe what I'm trying to change is healthcare professionals' perception of the physical environment as just a place to work and provide care to a place of healing, which can lead to better outcomes for patients and staff.

What are you trying to change?

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Jan Stichler

6 years ago

Change is never easy for any of us...even those of us who are early adopters to new things. As a hospital design consultant, I often heard physicians and nurses say, "but this is how we do it here" or "we are different from others" or "we've always done it this way". Often they would try to replicate what they had in the existing space even though it didn't work for them. It was always a challenge to get them to "let go of the existing" and at least explore the possibilities of what could be. When evidence was available, we used it to inform them and empower them with new possibilities. I suppose we are often afraid of change because we can't visualize how we will be able to function in the new space or live in the realm of possibility and the potential until it becomes our new reality.

Sara Marberry

6 years ago

Hard to change how people work, isn't it? Thanks for your comment, Jan!

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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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