Nurses with access to private break areas could experience significant stress reduction and raised job satisfaction, potentially leading to improved care for the patients they serve, said Adeleh Nejati '15, a former Ph.D. architecture student at Texas A&M, in her Ph.D. dissertation.
Healthcare administrators may overlook the importance of respite for nurses and underestimate the value of staff break areas designed to maximize their restorative potential, said Nejati, a healthcare architect and design researcher at HKS Architects’ Los Angeles office.
“The topic is critical because little research focuses on staff needs, despite the known relationship between staff well-being and quality of patient care,” said James Barlow, the lead judge in a research project award competition sponsored by the International Academy for Design & Health, a global nonprofit organization.
Nejati’s project, “Restorative Design Features for Hospital Staff Break Areas: A Multi-Method Study,”earned the IADH’s 2015 Best Ph.D. Research Project Award as well as the 2015 Joel Polsky Academic Achievement Award from the American Society of Interior Designers Foundation.
In her research, Nejati studied break areas by assessing their usage patterns, nurses’ preferences and their perceptions of the restorative qualities of the areas’ design features.
“Having physical access to private outdoor spaces such as balconies or porches was shown to have significantly greater perceived restorative potential when compared with window views, artwork, or indoor plants,” she said.
She also found that break areas are more likely to be used if they are near nurses’ work areas, provide complete privacy from patients and families and provide opportunities for individual privacy as well as socialization with coworkers.
Nejati conducted the project as a research assistant at Texas A&M's Center for Health Systems & Design.