Comfort rooms are cool

January 3, 2019
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB

Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, is a partner at Animal Arts, an architecture firm in Boulder, Colorado and frequent HospitalDesign360 conference speaker. She's a lighting geek and a (seriously) devoted advocate of minimizing pets' stress and anxiety during their veterinary visits. She has designed practices and shelters that range in size from 1,200 square feet to 110,000 square feet. During grad school (as a break from architorture) she trained miniature horses to pull carts!

Vetted, Vetted February 2019, Volume 114, Issue 2

These rooms can be used for more than saying goodbye to veterinary patients. They make great spaces for a variety of appointment types, provided theyre outfitted appropriately.

We tend to associate comfort rooms with euthanasia, but there's really no reason to limit them. Large examination rooms like these are useful every day of the week for a variety of purposes, provided they're comfortably furnished and decorated tastefully. Comfort rooms are great spaces for:

Accommodating large family groups

Difficult or lengthy consultations

Procedures such as acupuncture that are typically done in larger exam rooms

Physical exams on the floor (because comfort rooms tend to be oversized).

Here are a few examples of these rooms being used for multiple purposes.

Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital, Wheat Ridge, Colorado

This oversized comfort room illustrates how a space may be used for floor examinations of elderly pets in addition to euthanasia. The ability to examine a pet on the floor can also provide the hospital with more flexibility for accommodating low-stress or Fear Free practice by doing exams where the patient is most comfortable.

Upstate Veterinary Specialists, Greenville, South Carolina

If you have enough examination rooms to limit your comfort room use to euthanasia, you can outfit it specifically for grieving families. One of the keys to this is appropriate lighting. Dimmable lighting creates a calming and respectful environment for the pet and the pet's family. If you're interested in using your comfort room more flexibly, place the dimmable ambiance lighting on a different switch from the regular room lighting.

Four Seasons Veterinary Hospital, Loveland, Colorado

A typical exam room is 8x10, 9x10 or 10x10 feet at its largest. A comfort room should be at least 10x10, but many are larger.

These bigger rooms can be furnished with much more comfortable, home-like furnishings, such as sofas and oversized lounge chairs. The most practical seating is made out of vinyl and can be wiped clean. The right fabrics could also work well; there are many good choices in product lines that cater to human medical spaces.

Note in this photo the use of natural lighting. Natural lighting is another good option for comfort rooms. Room lights can be completely turned off to create a peaceful atmosphere for difficult consultations and euthanasia appointments.

Adobe Pet Hospital, Petaluma, California

Indoor/outdoor examination rooms make exceptional comfort rooms. By definition, they're on the outside walls of the hospital, which allows for natural light and privacy, and for the possibility of an outdoor euthanasia, which many clients appreciate. When exam rooms are on or near the building exterior, accommodating a separate exit for grieving clients is a lot easier, affording them the dignity of not having to walk back through the lobby after saying goodbye to their pet.

Indoor/outdoor examination rooms are great for Fear Free practices, as some dogs are calmer and happier when being seen in an outdoor environment instead of an indoor exam room.

Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, is a partner at Animal Arts, an architecture firm in Boulder, Colorado and frequent HospitalDesign360 conference speaker. She's a lighting geek and a (seriously) devoted advocate of minimizing pets' stress and anxiety during their veterinary visits. She has designed practices and shelters that range in size from 1,200 square feet to 110,000 square feet. During grad school (as a break from “architorture”) she trained miniature horses to pull carts!

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