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 soothing elements.

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 these items:

  • Private rooms 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 illumination.
  • 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 time.”

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 nature.”

And for patients recovering from cardiac surgery, an environment designed to promote comfort and healing can ensure a positive experience on the way to recovery.

Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

October 2016