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News - September 2017

A&E design can improve staff experience

A&E design can improve staff experience

Simple design changes to hospital emergency departments could prevent medical errors and make vulnerable frontline staff more secure, suggests new research.

International design practice, HASSELL, premiered its latest new study, Emergency Talks, at this year’s European Healthcare Design Congress.

Working with The University of Melbourne in Australia, HASSELL found that in pressured emergency departments healthcare staff lacked opportunities to check critical patient information with colleagues and to support each other emotionally in stressful situations. This in a context where international studies have found up to 80% of medical errors are due to miscommunication.

HASSELL principal, Kieren Morgan, a UK-based healthcare design expert, explains that while these issues are well recognised within emergency units, HASSELL has taken a unique healthcare staff-centred approach to addressing them, including suggesting cutting-edge commercial workplace design solutions applicable specifically to healthcare environments.

“The private sector has invested hugely in developing workplace environments that balance the need for increased business efficiency with individual employee needs,” he said.

“Yet in public healthcare we haven’t been doing that.

“This research recognises that, for staff, emergency departments are workplaces. We’ve drawn from best practice developed in other settings.”

Presently the lack of suitable space in hospitals means staff use corridors, store cupboards, and patient screening curtains to get a moment to touch base, leading to poor communication, lapses in patient confidentiality, or staff feeling over exposed to aggressive members of the public.

HASSELL researcher, Michaela Sheahan, said that much healthcare design research, including work by The Design Council and the NHS itself, is patient focused.

“Hospitals everywhere are grappling with how to improve outcomes for patients and staff all the time,” she said.

“But, mostly, they look at patient experience as the driver for change.

“The staff’s needs are sometimes overshadowed and our research shows staff are very concerned with safety, in particular.

“It’s an underlying stress they feel continually and this affects the overall work environment significantly.”

She added: “Our ideas are very much driven by how we can support nurses and doctors and give them the spaces they need to pass across vital information and improve their morale to avoid stress and staff burnout.”

The research was conducted in public hospitals in Melbourne and included international literature reviews, staff surveys, and focus groups, as well as drawing on previous studies by the Design Council UK, Centre for Workplace Intelligence and others.

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