Expert Opinion: Designing Healthcare for Every Generation

Tina Larsen (Courtesy of: Corgan)

The physical environment can have a big impact on how an employee feels and can either facilitate their ability to do their job or create frustrating barriers, but these pain points, preferences, and motivators look different for Baby Boomers, post-millennials, and everyone in between.

In light of the growth of healthcare’s generationally diverse workforce, understanding the most important drivers of staff satisfaction provides a powerful opportunity to improve quality of care, patient experience, and ultimately, the bottom line.

  • Baby boomers are emotionally invested in patients but report being emotionally exhausted and physically fatigued.
  • Concerned with a work-life balance and their health, Gen Xers can be stressed by long hours and search for more flexible jobs. When promoted to supervisory roles, they are challenged by managing diverse teams in today’s workforce.
  • Millennials are tech-reliant and frustrated with inefficient processes and lack of technology. They are motivated by altruistic missions, benefits, teamwork, and mentorship. They value flexibility and workplace wellness.  By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials or post millennials.
  • Entrepreneurial in spirit, Post-Millennials are natural multi-taskers, appreciate the increased productivity afforded by technology, and are most likely to question the status-quo.

Despite these differences, several DFW projects have adapted popular workplace trends to respond to today’s multi-generational staff and create supportive environments that increase satisfaction, recruit and retain talent, and improve patient outcomes with more engaged caregivers.

Variety and Control

Offering a mix of postures provides the power of choice to personalize the workplace according to their workstyle or the task at hand. Lighting and acoustics add layers of control and comfort to mitigate distractions and create opportunities for more inviting, functional spaces for relationship building and mentorship. Hybrid environments such as corridor alcoves and centralized nurses’ station being designed at Methodist Midlothian offers multiple settings and flexible furniture to suit several concurrent needs and workstyles–empowering millennials, who value team-oriented settings, with collaborative spaces to learn from more experienced colleagues while those looking for “heads down” time can find nestled work stations connected to the department.

Wellness and Mindfulness

The health of nurses is worse than that of the average American–many overweight, over-stressed and more susceptible to a job-related injury. Incorporating WELL Building Strategies such as sit to stand workstations and healthy food options provides measurable solutions for improving overall well-being. Naturally inspired colors, textures and visual effects— laminate, porcelain, and vinyl designed to look like wood, for instance—replicate the sensory effect of being outside in a healthcare appropriate setting. For those managing 12-hour shifts, averaging 25,000 steps per day, and dealing with the emotional fatigue of large caseloads, respite areas with serene images, lounge furniture, and views to the outdoors provides accessible reprieve between patients while encouraging a more balanced culture.

Technology

Healthcare as an industry is filled with cutting-edge medical equipment technology, but the day-to-day technology provided to front line clinical staff often falls well behind corporate workplace standards. Access through handheld devices and at appropriately located workstations with badge-tap log-ins improves efficiency and reduces frustration in Parkland Hospital. Electronic medical records continue to improve as software systems become fully integrated across the healthcare systems. For example, EMR can scan systems associated with patient medication dispensing and reduce errors by automatically crosschecking the medication and dosage with the patients’ medical records.

From emerging talent that tend to be drawn to amenities and workplace perks to experienced staff juggling the demands of physical and psychological stressors, healthcare’s modern workforce differ in how core values take shape. All staff, regardless of their generation or experience level, want to know their contributions matter and feel that they are valued. They need the right tools in the right place at the right time with customizable environments that are as nimble and responsive as they are to the demands of the day. Finally, while healthcare design and operations have been very good at caring for patients, staff need a workplace that is just as successful at caring for them.

Tina Larsen, AIA, LEED AP, EDAC is the Healthcare Market Sector Leader for Corgan and has over 32 years of experience on a wide variety of complex clinical projects in both renovations and ground-up facilities.

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