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The Role Of Hospital Design In Reducing Anxiety For Pediatric Patients

Jenifer Cartland, Holly S. Ruch-Ross, Lauren Carr, Audrey Hall, Richard Olsen, Ellen Rosendale, Susan Ruohonen

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Objectives: To study the impact of hospital design on patient and family experiences during and after hospitalization. Background: Hospitalization can be psychologically traumatic for children. Few research studies have studied the role of the design of the hospital environment in mitigating that traumatic experience. Methods: The study employs a two-group posttest and follow-up design to compare the impact of hospitalization on child anxiety and parent stress. It compares the experiences of children (ages 3–17) hospitalized at a new facility designed to support child-centered care and with family-friendly features with an older facility that did not have these features. The new facility was a replacement of the old one, so that many challenges to comparison are addressed. Results: Controlling for the facts of hospitalization, patient demographics, and the child’s typical anxiety level, children in the new facility experienced less anxiety than in the old facility. The study does not provide evidence that the hospital design reduced the psychological sequelae of hospitalization. Parents and children found different features of the hospital to be restorative. Conclusions: The study supports the use of Ulrich’s theory of supportive design to children’s healthcare environments, though what is experienced as supportive design will vary by the developmental stage of the child.