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The new cancer centre at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, and the award winning intensive care unit at the University Medical Centre (UMC) in Utrecht, show that environment can promote healing.
“Our new intensive care (IC) unit is an enormous step forward”, says Pieter Duif, Head of Buildings and Housing at UM C Utrecht. “We wanted to extend capacity of our IC unit, and make it state of the art in the process. Not just on the technical side of things but in ‘soft’ terms too, such as individual rooms, sleep facilities for visitors, a homely atmosphere with daylight, and a pleasant indoor climate.
“Besides architects and consultants, we asked colleagues and patients for their opinions. This was a once in a life time opportunity, so we needed to put our trust in people with experience. The recommendation to build on a new location, instead of extending the existing unit played an important role in our decisionmaking. It turned out to be the roof of one of the buildings. By building upwards we would be able to fulfil all our ambitions – like increased daylight, for example. An additional advantage was that the old location could continue to function during construction work, which meant patient safety was guaranteed. Furthermore, ‘in-fill’ development will be possible in the future.
“It was really exciting when we decided to build on the roof. It put extra demands on the construction and infrastructure, so extra investments were needed, but the budget has been kept under control.
“The result is amazing. The IC rooms are conveniently grouped around a well-lit patio in a peaceful environment and working space for staff is positioned so that they are visible from any given point.”
The VU VUMC AMSTERDAM
Admission to the unit is a very new patient experience due to a combination of small innovations that help visitors and patients orientate themselves easily.
Daylight shines into rooms and at night lamps ensure ‘friendly’ lighting. Noiseless draft free air conditioning built into the ceiling above beds reduces heat from medical equipment. To enhance patient privacy beds are positioned so that people passing by are prevented from viewing beds directly.
The working environment has been optimised too. Thanks to transparent walls, hospital staff have more visual control over their environment. Smart glass provides privacy for patients receiving bedside medical treatment. Medication is carefully prepared in the departmental pharmacy and each patient has their own medicine trolley. “It’s a lot of work to start with, but it saves a great deal of time and increases patient safety”, Pieter concludes.
This year, the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam took delivery of a brand-new diagnosis and treatment centre for cancer patients. The design emphasis was the healing environment. The project team comprising architects, consultants and builders, worked closely holding many discussions to ensure the right atmosphere was created. Previously acquired patient comments and suggestions were incorporated, and ideas were then proposed to the medical staff for feedback.
“The discussions were fascinating”, says Anne Brouwer, who advised on the design of the lighting and air-conditioning installations on behalf of Royal H askoning. “The focus was on the patient at every stage of the process. One example is the lighting in the hallways. Light fittings were placed on walls instead of the ceiling, so patients would be protected from glare when being transported on trolley beds.” Patients are able to regulate lighting and temperature themselves. Research has shown that sun and artificial light reduces patient recovery time, feelings of depression, and the need for analgesic medication.
Clear organisation with a centrally-located reception, attractive furnishings and pleasant lighting all add up to a nice environment. There is a comfortable lounge where patients can meet other people, as well as corners they can withdraw to. Access to television and internet is available throughout.
Adequate privacy has been created in all the treatment areas, and equipment is hidden from view.
Anne is particularly proud of the result: “I’m convinced that a healing environment contributes to the recovery process. Maintaining patient independence is important, and having control of lighting, sound and air-conditioning contribute to this. If the temperature is right, staff function better too.”