Two hot trends in hospital design

August 24, 2017
Katie James, dvm360 Associate Content Specialist
Katie James, dvm360 Associate Content Specialist

Katie James is an Associate Content Specialist for UBM Animal Care. She produces and edits content for and its associated print publications, dvm360 magazine, Vetted and Firstline. She has a passion for creating highly-engaging content through the use of new technology and storytelling platforms. In 2018, she was named a Folio: Rising Star Award Honoree, an award given to individuals who are making their mark and disrupting the status quo of magazine media, even in the early stages of their careers. She was also named an American Society of Business Publication Editors Young Leader Scholar in 2015. Katie grew up in the Kansas City area and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism. Outside of the office her sidekick is an energetic Australian cattle dog mix named Blitz.

Hospital Design conference attendees as well as educators agreed: hospitality and veterinary team wellness through design are in.

From left, Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference educators, Dave Gasser, C. Scott Learned, Vicki Pollard, Heather Lewis, Becky Valentine, Dan Chapel and Wayne Usiak.

Speaking to a full room at the 2017 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, veterinary architects and engineers dished out sage advice to attendees about the hottest trends they're seeing in the industry. Here's a recap.

Putting thought into ‘hospitality'

The first top trend? A more welcoming and relaxing reception area, the panelists agreed.

For Dave Gasser, AIA, of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, New Mexico, making the experience feel familiar to clients is key. “Try to make an experience that people are used to in your waiting area. Give them a place to rest at a high-top table, or an area that they can plug their phone in while they wait. Think of a Starbucks atmosphere,” he says.

Taking cues from the Fear Free movement and moving the client into the exam room quickly is one way that Vicki Pollard, AIA, CVT, of Animal Arts in Boulder, Colorado, would take hospitality one step further. “Giving the client an opportunity to stay with their pet longer and wait in the exam room, and even allowing them some transparency to see into ‘the back' in a controlled way will go a long way in encouraging the human-animal bond to occur in the practice,” she says.

Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, also of Animal Arts, agrees. “Clients think of their pets as family, so when you have correct species solutions in your practice, such as cat cages designed for cats and dog cages designed specifically for dogs, you should be proud of that ward that you've built. And then you won't be afraid to show anything to your clients when they ask for a tour.”

Rethinking waiting areas is what Becky Valentine, of BDA Architecture, would do. “We've had success with smaller waiting areas and moving people to the exam room quickly. This can be quite successful if you enhance the exam rooms through interior design,” she says. “Use decorative wall coverings and nice-looking, comfortable chairs, and art or TVs on the walls. If it's not a completely white, sterile-feeling box, clients won't mind waiting. It will feel like a private suite.”

You can go one step further and have check-in, check-out and even some minor treatment done all in the exam room and then the client can stay with the pet longer.

Well-being isn't only for the patients

Recognizing the stresses and pressures of life and putting more of a focus on self-care and well-being has started to trickle into design theory-making it another top trend.

Research has shown that access to natural light improves mood in humans and possibly even helps recovering veterinary patients. “Lighting is really important for well-being. No one wants to work in a dim space. You can do a lot to make your hospital enjoyable by using light and color,” Gasser says. “Don't treat the hospital as a clinical, white-walls-only space. The décor isn't only for clients. Doing things like that, and having amenities like a staff lounge will go a long way in staff happiness.”

Valentine advises putting thought into your staff lounge. “Don't make it an alcove shoved in a back corner. a lot of our clients are starting to put in lounges that have indoor/outdoor access and the room becomes somewhere that the staff can go and have coffee or sit down for lunch or even use it as a collaboration space,” she says. “Individual work stations are necessary, but think about also including an island somewhere that people can gather around to meet and collaborate.”

Think about how your staff needs to work in the space, says C. Scott Learned, MS, MBA, PE, LEED AP, of Design Learned, in Norwich, Connecticut. “We're pressured to get more out of the square footage and that can make areas stressful when there are people piled on top of each other in a small space,” he says. “There are Fear Free recommendations for animal housing that are advocating more space for animals, but then we turn around and don't give the people working in the practice enough space.”

Having space for private conversations is a must for employee comfort, says Lewis. “People need to be able to call their physician or have a sensitive conversation with a coworker,” she says. “It can be uncomfortable to try and do those things out in the open with the whole practice listening in. This space could also double as a space that nursing mothers could use, because it can be demeaning to try to pump in the bathroom while someone else is waiting to get in. Having an area that can be used in these ways is important.”