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Peace and Quiet: New Patient Rooms Focus on Families and Privacy

When Rebecca Lewis began her nursing career in the 1960s, intensive care units were long and narrow, with curtains between beds. “More ward-like,” she says.

Hospitals have come a long way since then.

Our 72 new private patient rooms have large windows to let in lots of light. The green, blue and umber shades of the walls reflect nature themes.

Lewis, who is now a facilities planning administrator and clinical liaison at UVA, says the new rooms and units are designed to:

  • Accommodate family members
  • Promote privacy
  • Reduce noise
  • Prevent and stop infections

All these features ultimately promote faster healing and help our staff do their jobs.

Quiet Environments for Patients and Staff

Monitors beep. Phones ring. Staff scurry back and forth. People talk. Patients need rest, but hospitals aren’t always the quietest places.

A University of Chicago study found that noise in hospital rooms was higher than World Health Organization recommendations and could sometimes spike to twice the recommended level.

Studies show the noise makes it hard for patients to rest, prolonging recovery time, and can even lead to medication errors.

To address this, the new units incorporate several features:

  • Smaller staff work areas throughout the unit instead of one central station
  • A room just for preparing medication to reduce distractions
  • Work rooms for doctor and staff training and discussing cases
  • Consultation rooms for caregivers to meet with patients’ families
  • Quieter floors

“Where noise occurs in open units is typically at the team station where everybody’s in dialogue,” Lewis says. “Now, you have dialogue in work rooms and only small groups of people coming together in the open spaces to talk, so you shouldn’t have the same level of background buzz.”

Having more work areas for our staff also promotes efficiency, Lewis adds. When staff don’t have to walk as far for a computer or take time to find something, “That time is then devoted to direct care.”

The quiet floors are easier to clean than traditional carpet or tile floors, so infection-causing bacteria won’t get trapped in grout or fibers.

Meeting Family Needs 

The new units don’t just provide a better environment for the patient and staff. They also help families who want to be involved in their loved one’s care. And research shows more family involvement reduces patient anxiety and improves care.

UVA patients can name one or two visitors as “care partners,” family members or friends who can stay with their loved one around the clock and get medical information. More than 50 percent of patients have at least one care partner.

Often, a care partner spends the night in the hospital room.

That will be a little easier and more comfortable in the new rooms. Each room has:

  • A desk and chair for working
  • A couch that converts to a bed

Improving Existing Units

The extra space the new units provide will help us finish renovations this year. Those renovations will bring many of the features of the new units to older parts of the hospital, such as:

  • Separate medication preparation area
  • Better lighting
  • New floors
  • Smaller team areas instead of a central station

Many units have already been renovated. We’ll renovate the labor and delivery, pediatric and intensive care units over the next two years. As units are renovated, we’ll gradually have more beds for patients.

Want to learn more about what’s available for patients and families? Take a look at our:

Or if you have a loved one who’s currently in the hospital, you can send an eCard.

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