Intensive care units are spaces where there is a fast and furious rhythm work and this causes stress to healthcare professionals. There are many factors that cause it, and one is the environmental and physical environment.

Humanised architecture not only focuses on patients or relatives creating spaces that transmit them the warmth of a ‘temporary home’, transforming the traditional waiting rooms by a concept more friendly as the living room is. It also faces the challenge of improving the space needed by staff.

To do this, we need to take care of the design of the physical environment where the staff develop their work and facilitate their rest, because optimized space has a positive influence on the physical and emotional mood, and this has a direct impact on patients and families.

To humanize the staff spaces we focus in the design:

• A right and comfortable environment with a level of temperature, humidity, noise and optimal lighting. If you want to know the recommended ranges of comfort to an ICU, you can consult them in the humanization Plan of the ICU in the Community of Madrid.

• Ergonomic spaces, because the ergonomics looks for work fits the worker, instead of forcing the worker to adapt to the work. It is the key to the distribution of space, work equipment and furniture.

• Work spaces with sufficient dimensions, the appropiate equipment and ergonomical furniture, so each person can customize it to the physical characteristics and always use comfortably and safely for the staff.

All these conditions must also be present in rest rooms. It´s important to provide a good workspace as a suitable environment to rest. It is essential to have a well dimensioned and distributed space in order to have a second home space: lounge, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.

What is ideal is that all these stays would be physically  separated physically among them. They must be away from the unit to promote relaxation and privacy to staff but they will have to be sufficiently close to arrive as soon as possible in case of emergency and try as far as possible to have natural light and views to the exterior to maintain circadian rhythm.

Staff should have a room for rest, a  warm and cozy space, kitchen complete with the necessary  appliances available, with extractors for avoid the smell to food, furniture for eating and rooms have comfortable beds and enough for the people who work in the shift.

Home furnishings will bring warmth to the space, prioritizing ergonomics to make it comfortable. With color a warm atmosphere will be created avoiding the visual fatigue and helping to improve mood. Finally, the use of decorative elements such as corks to put photos, natural plants… will give the personal touch.

There are units that have very limited spaces for rest areas, even there are cases where all functions are performed in the same room. Versatile furniture (or multifunction) that adapts to functions requiring space at any time, can be used to optimize them in which a module helps us to rest, eat and sleep. If we stick to the spirit of humanization and we should take care of the caregiver, this is not recommended, but in cases where infrastructure can not afford it due to its antigue we can use them but we should try to respect the rest of the staff áreas.

Ori apartment animation from Ori on Vimeo.

Let´s care for the staff, caring the spaces. If we don´t do it, the health system will fail.


Mónica Ferrero, interiorist at Lab In Action and Proyecto HU-CI designer.