Dynamist Blog

Why Do Kids Get the Pretty Hospitals?

Interviewed by Healthcare Design Magazine, Tama Duffy Day, one of the leading interior designers specializing in health care, finds reason to hope hospitals are looking for better design. I was particularly interested in this exchange:

[Interviewer]: One thing I've wondered is why the excitement and creativity of design for children's hospitals isn't carried over, typically, to more general hospitals accommodating adults. Your thoughts?

Day: I think that's an intriguing question and, in working on about 20 projects for the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., I've wondered the same thing myself. The best answer I have today is that, when you see a sick child or infant, you want nothing more than to support them and offer them hope — almost as though whispering "hang on." Interestingly, when you look at the other end of life, it seems the opposite — we turn away, almost as if to say "let go." I think that's changing, that we will be creating more hopeful places for people as they age.

It's an interesting theory, but I'm not convinced. After all, many (most?) hospitalized adults are not at the end of life or even close to it. Rather, I think hospitals have traditionally believed that caring about the look of one's surroundings is frivolous--childish, we might say--and therefore unsuitable for the serious business of adult health care.

I wrote about health-care aesthetics here. In the course of my research, several people told me that radiation therapy facilities tend to be more attractive. Since cancer patients have to go every single day for radiation therapy and therefore want short commutes, there are many free-standing radiation clinics that compete for patients, leading to more attention to aesthetics. Alas, the UCLA radiation therapy area, while by no means ugly, is unremarkable.

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