Evidence-Based Hospital Design

Many of Lurie Children's key design decisions reflect evidence-based design features intended to improve care for children. Our team reviewed the growing body of evidence that shows that hospital design impacts patient stress, patient and staff safety, staff effectiveness and care quality in order to determine which features to incorporate into the design of Lurie Children’s. Some examples include:

  • All private inpatient rooms to reduce infection and promote healing
  • Acuity adaptable rooms in the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit to eliminate transfers to another unit when a patient’s condition changes
  • Decentralized nursing stations to increase staff time spent in direct patient care
  • Access to sunlight and views of nature to reduce stress

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The Crown Sky Garden at Lurie Children's

Measuring the Impact of Design on Healing

Surprisingly, there are significant gaps in what is known about the role of respite and play spaces in a pediatric patient’s health and healing. Quantification of hospital design has applicability nationwide with the growing interest in building new healing spaces for children. The generosity and foresight of the Crown Family in creating the Crown Sky Garden, a place of respite for patients and their families, presents a unique opportunity to understand the connection between hospital design and health.

An expert, multidisciplinary research team at Lurie Children’s is partnering with the internationally-recognized Center for Health Design to examine the impact of hospital design on stress levels in hospitalized children and their parents. The study will explore the extent to which healing spaces promote health and healing during hospitalization like in the Crown Sky Garden, and other spaces that provide respite, play and self-care.

The Pebble Project

Lurie Children’s is also part of the “Pebble Project,” a group of 50 hospitals from around the world that are committed to studying specific innovations in hospital design. Research on the hospital design and Crown Sky Garden will be shared once it is completed so that other hospitals can learn from this experience as they move from conception to design in their own spaces. Read more about the Pebble Project.

Facility Design Impact on Hospitalized Children

The stress of hospitalization can lead to symptoms of psychological trauma, such as sleep disruption and separation anxiety, for months after the child goes home. Jenifer Cartland, PhD, Director of the Child Health Data Lab (CHDL) at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Research Center, is conducting a pilot study to determine if elements of hospital design can add to a supportive child-centered toolkit children’s hospitals can use to make the experience less traumatic for children.

Some design elements that will be included at Lurie Children’s that are hypothesized to reduce child and parent stress include:

Dr. Cartland received funding for this pilot study from the Center for Health Design. In future studies, she hopes to evaluate in greater depth the stress-reducing impact of designs for the Emergency Department and the Psychiatric Unit at Lurie Children’s.

Centralized vs. Decentralized Nursing Stations

A study comparing caregiver communication, teamwork, stress and quality of care on units with a centralized nursing station at the current hospital versus a decentralized design at Lurie Children’s is being led by Associate Chief Nurse Executive Sherri Ewing, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, and Karen Richey, MBA, RN, Administrator of Acute Care Services.

Centralized unit designs typically include a large nursing station that concentrates all patient charts, computers, medications and staff that need access to this information together in one location. A decentralized unit design brings nursing staff and supplies closer to patients. At Lurie Children’s, the units will have one nursing workstation with a chair and computer for every two patient rooms and four care team stations distributed at different ends of the unit. 

Previous hospital design research has primarily focused on benefits to patients, with few studies looking into unit design improvements from the caregiver perspective. Funding by the Shaw Faculty Collaborative Research Grant will provide support for Phase I data collection of nurse perceptions of the care environment within the current hospital’s unit design, as well as data on quality outcomes. Phase II of the study will evaluate the same measures at Lurie Children’s six months after the move, and then again one year later.

The results of this study will provide valuable evidence on how patient care unit design impacts nursing staff performance and quality of care.

More studies to evaluate outcomes related to the design of Lurie Children’s are in development.

Creating a Healing Environment

The design our hospital was based on the commitment to creating a healing environment that supports the work of our extraordinary caregivers. Learn more about our spaces.

Crown Sky Garden

The centerpiece of Lurie Children’s commitment to healing spaces is the Crown Sky Garden on the 11th floor of the hospital. The space, named in honor of the Crown Family, subtly divides the 5,000-square-foot garden into zones. Areas closer to the Sky Café are designed for high activity and performances, while areas closer to the windows encourage quiet activity and respite for families and staff. Read more about the Crown Sky Garden.

Take a tour of the hospital.