Doctoral student eying daylight’s effects on healthcare providers

Rana Zadeh

Rana Zadeh

The effects of daylight on healthcare workers and the care they provide, and how that impacts operating costs at health facilities, are the focus of an award-winning investigation by Rana Zadeh, a Ph.D. architecture student at Texas A&M.

“Although studies indicate that appropriate environmental lighting can result in elevated mood and alertness, leading to increased productivity and reduced cognitive impairment,” she said, “the presence of windows and the effect of daylight on healthcare employees’ health and performance has not been adequately studied.”

Zadeh’s research recently garnered a 2011 New Investigator Award from the Center for Health Design, an international community supporting design research, education and advocacy aimed at transforming healthcare environments for a healthier, safer world. Her proposal was one of four cutting-edge graduate research projects in evidence-based healthcare design to receive the international award at the November 2011 Healthcare Design Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

The award recognizes robust research that demonstrates how appropriate health design is a critical driver in positively influencing patient care outcomes, caregiver work environments, and organizational and business returns.

Zedeh will present her research next November at the Healthcare Design 2012 conference in Phoenix.

When completed, “the study’s findings can be implemented directly in the design and planning of healthcare buildings,” said Zadeh. “The research will inform designers, planners, administrators and owners on how the presence of daylight in healthcare environments affects the bottom line in quality, performance and fiscal payback.”

The study’s results will also be applicable to other work environments where daylight influences the moods and alertness of employees, she said.

In the first phase of the study, 208 health care staff members in three different facilities completed surveys and 32 participated in one-on-one interviews.

Additionally, Zadeh recorded 130 biological measurements of 14 study participants, controlling for personal, organizational and environmental variables. She also used computer simulations to analyze how windows and daylight affect a building’s energy use.

In the final phase, Zadeh will evaluate possible associations of the physiological and psychological effects of windows and daylight with medical errors and describe how that affects a medical facilities’ operating costs.

Zadeh is conducting her project under the mentorship of Mardelle Shepley, holder of William M. Peña Endowed Professorship in Information Management at the Texas A&M College of Architecture and director of the Center for Health Systems & Design. Collaborating with Zadeh by facilitating her research are staff at the St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan and the Student Health Services and Student Counseling Service at Texas A&M University.

A portion of the study’s methodology was developed in collaboration with Laurie Waggener, a research and evidence-based design leader with WHR Architects, and Elizabeth B. Klerman, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Yilin Song, a fellow Ph.D. student at Texas A&M, is assisting Zedeh with data collection.

posted April 6, 2012