“Children are not only innocent and curious but also optimistic and joyful and essentially happy. They are, in short, everything adults wish they could be”
– Carolyn Haywood
A hospital stay for children can be a poignant experience. Clinical modalities in today’s world might be both intimidating and overwhelming for young patients and their relatives. As a result, the needs and perceptions of pediatric patients in relation to the provision of services in a clinical setting entail specific design sensitivity.
While planning a pediatric facility or renovating an existing one, the focus might be to create a unique ambiance for the medical establishment that would help alleviate the existing difficulties associated with a child’s illness.
Certain design strategies could help create a less stressful environment, not only for the patients, but also for the family members and the medical staff. A few key factors that could create a more comfortable atmosphere might include easy access and movement, pleasing sensorial factors and positive distractions.
Easy access and movement
Concern and attention for an unwell child approaching the facility, could begin with a levelled sidewalk and a well finished road abutting the building. Steps and ramps with appropriate traction surfaces to the building would help support those children with physical challenges. The entrance and interior may be designed to shift the focus from the illness to wellness. Care could be taken to ensure outpatients and their families are not disturbed by in-patients and emergency care.
Placing windows in hallways, creating a more open plan layout and using landmarks permitting an easy understanding of movement, can all aid in assisting a child and their family members with circulation within the facility. Additionally, less written directions and more graphical signage such as floor markers and signs would also assist to overcome language barriers.
Pleasing sensorial factors
There are various sensorial factors that can be used to engage and distract a child and assist in their recovery such as exposure to natural and soft artificial light, well ventilated spaces and the use of appropriate colours in various areas of the pediatric facility.
Daylight and fresh air have been shown to help aid overall healing and well-being for children. Studies have documented that patients in rooms with high levels of sunlight have had shorter stays. Electrical light can be used as an indirect source of the light to help create a softer and calming environment for the patient coupled with the use of sound absorbers to keep young patients from being exposed to external noise.
Colour therapy can be used in the facility based on the function and use of the space. Reports have indicated that colours can have a significant impact on the psyche of children and influence many facets including emotions, mental state, mood and energy levels. Accordingly, bright colours which are commonly considered to evoke positive feelings, or dark colors which are often associated with calming environments can be incorporated based on the function of the space.
Providing facilities for children to play would help them socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally while recuperating. It would also decrease the stress and anxiety associated with the stay. To encourage children to play, the hospital could create social child-friendly environments involving fun activities with games and toys such as interactive walls, touchscreen game tables and television screens.
Art is another positive distraction with proven possible therapeutic effects on a child in improving their mood. It is recommended that hospitals provide different mediums and forms of art, with a possible focus on nature-based images.
Providing garden and green spaces would help both the staff and patients cope with stress by creating a more relaxing environment. These areas could spread throughout the establishment and may possibly be used for activities including rehabilitation exercises, mediation and playing.
At a tender age, for a child, social support and care have a significant impact. Their care is multifaceted and family inclusive. The comfort of staff, family members and patients could be enhanced by incorporating some of the ideas mentioned above.
These varied design changes would benefit both the comfort and welfare of not only those children who seek medical attention but also the care-givers.
About the author:
Parvathi S. Rao is the principal architect of PSR Architecture. The firm was established in 2011 and specializes in the research and design of a wide spectrum of projects ranging from residences, retail, corporate, hospitality, renovations and institutions.
The firm may be contacted at