How Comforting Touches Can Help Cardiac Surgery Patients Recover
The typical image of a hospital room likely brings to mind a sterile space
that’s heavy on alarms and cumbersome medical equipment and light on
But research has demonstrated that physical environment can play an
important role in patients’ healing, and that factors such as reduced noise
and calming surroundings can benefit caregivers as well.
At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, clinical staff in the
Division of Cardiac Surgery
recently joined architects and engineers, as well as patients and family
members, to put this research into practice for the redesign of Farr 8, the
recovery floor for BIDMC’s cardiac surgery patients. The
new space opened in the spring of 2016.
“This space reflects who we truly are in terms of our quality, in terms of
our outcomes, in terms of our efficiency, and most important, in terms of
the tremendous caregiving team we have built,” says
Kamal Khabbaz, MD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery. “All of these components translate into
excellent results for our patients.”
“In renovating this floor, a lot of thought went into the particular design
elements that would provide a healing environment and would be really nice
for patients and their families,” adds Cardiac Surgery Nursing Director
Marjorie Serrano, RN, who along with Dr. Khabbaz and cardiac surgery nurses
Cali Papalia, RN, and Pam Underhill, RN, were involved in every design
decision throughout the 18-month process.
Today, patients and family entering Farr 8 are greeted by light-filled
surroundings against a backdrop of neutral colors,
nature-themed glass murals and treetop views. The floor now contains 20
private patient rooms and comfortable common areas for families and
visitors, a soothing and supportive environment where patients can begin
the surgical recovery process before going home.
The Elements of a Healing Environment
According to the
Center for Health Design, evidence-based design (EBD) — the field of study that makes use of
research to influence specific design decisions — is used by health care
facilities to promote healing, reduce stress, and ensure patient safety,
while improving the overall well-being of patients and staff.
“We were very mindful of these and other EBD features as we worked on the
new cardiac surgery space,” says Theresa Harris, architectural coordinator
for the project. “We not only wanted the private patient rooms to provide
maximum comfort for patients and their families, we wanted the work spaces
and corridors to be streamlined and orderly for staff. “
In a well-known report on patient safety, the
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
described a number of specific elements in the hospital environment that
can have a measurable impact on a patient’s well-being. They singled out
help promote better sleep, provide more opportunities for family
interaction and result in fewer hospital-induced infections.
Natural light and soothing colors
can help induce calmness. Natural light has also been shown to reduce
pharmaceutical dispensing errors that result from inadequate
Noise and sound
can have a detrimental impact on patients. Reducing environmental noise
levels has been shown to reduce patients’ anxiety and stress.
Aesthetically pleasing elements,
such as inspirational artwork and wood-finished cabinetry that conceals
medical equipment, have been shown to increase patients’ satisfaction
with their surroundings.
Patients and Families are the Experts
BIDMC's Patient Family Advisory Council, a group of former patients and
family members, provided valuable input for the new design.
“We turned to our Patient-Family Advisory Council when we had a specific
question,” Serrano says. “After all, they are the experts when it comes to
the patient experience.
“Based, in part, on their recommendations, we now have a family area in
each room. In most rooms, there are pullout couches where family members
can stay overnight and there are personal lockboxes for patients’
possessions,” adds Serrano. “It’s very important for patients to spend time
with their family and friends when they’re recuperating.”
Other input from family members helped to shape the design of the floor’s
solarium and nourishment room, where patients and family members can visit
outside of their own room.
“Our staff had received feedback that the patients and their families like
to see clinical staff washing their hands in the room,” Serrano says. “With
our redesign, we have arranged for waterless hand sanitizer, gloves, gowns,
and masks to be stored in the walls of rooms, so when we walk in and
introduce ourselves to the patient, we’re washing our hands at the same
The Art of Comfortable Surroundings
While medical equipment is a necessity on the hospital floor, every effort
is made to conceal it as much as possible.
“We created storage alcoves for medical carts and portable monitors to
avoid feelings of clutter,” says Serrano.
And what patients do see on the floor is equally important.
“No matter what direction you look in, you see big, beautiful windows and
trees outside,” Serrano says. “It really gives a feeling of openness and
And for patients recovering from cardiac surgery, an environment designed
to promote comfort and healing can ensure a positive experience on the way
Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel
Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult