COVID has altered our view of what a nurse's lounge should look like and what it needs to provide. Images posted on every network, showing nurses exhausted, distressed, and needing time to recover from the pandemic of the century! Some scars will last a lifetime for the staff that battled in the front lines, doing all they could to save human lives from the cruelness of COVID 19 and the path of destruction it left behind!
There are several design elements that will help the staff get the intended rest and be refreshed before they are summoned back to the unit to work. Additionally, these lounges are often used for staff meetings and vendor demonstrations so it is good to consider the multi-purposes in the design stages. Here are a few recommendations to consider:
- Often the nurses lounge is limited in space which makes it important to declutter and open the space up as much as possible. Creating open and airy feeling rooms will contribute to a more relaxing environment along with maximizing the available natural daylight available.
- The nurses work in a sea of pastel greens and blues, typical of healthcare settings so give them a break by taking them into non-traditional colour schemes. The aura should be calming and comfortable but not too dramatic, keeping in mind the psychological impact of colour.
- Some nurses like to have a boisterous conversation while other will prefer to have some quiet time. If the space allows, consider having a “quiet corner” and a “conversational” designated area.
- It is common to have a small kitchen in the nurse's lounge, with a sink, fridge, and microwave. This space is important to keep uncluttered and clean (the battle of every lunchroom). Having a compact layout for this will reduce the potential for collecting clutter and undesirable personal belongings in this space, along with noted policies for good housekeeping.
- To start off, consumer or office grade furniture should never be used in these rooms as the staff will come directly from the unit and return to the unit after the break, without changing into their street clothes. The seating in the nurse's lounge is often overlooked for infection control risks and the chairs need to be just as cleanable as the waiting room.
- Considering that nurses are on their feet all day, it would make sense to provide seating that allows them to put their feet up for the short break that they get. When you go into these lounges you will often see that the coffee table is being used as a foot rest with the shoes that have walked the floors of the unit. Their feet and backs are tired from the work they do and a recliner will give them the chance to recover before heading back to the unit.
- Depending on the space available in the room, a recliner that converts into a sleep surface is an ideal piece to offer the staff in the “quiet corner.” A 5-minute cat nap can refresh your staff like nothing else and provide for overtime exhaustion like we saw in the worst of the pandemic. It was heartbreaking to see the images of the front lines sleeping on any surfaces that they could find to lay down and get the needed rest.
- Tables are best reduced to minimum sizes and volumes as these can become clutter collectors. It is important to have a place to set a coffee or sit up and eat a meal however, these tables are best using a minimalist approach. If a dining table is part of your design, consider using stacking chairs for the table so that they can be repurposed in case of a meeting or set to the side.
Many nurses' lounges are overlooked and resemble either a conference room or a diner, not allowing the staff the opportunity to return to their duties refreshed. COVID has put the spotlight on the front lines of healthcare and our dependence on them as a nation. We all remember the images we saw posted in the media of healthcare professionals sleeping on any surface they could find, exhausted and crushed emotionally. If you are designing a new lounge space for nurses, remember those images and use the best of your design skills to make it better for the front lines that never stopped caring for our nation.