Hospitals and pediatrician offices often feel unfamiliar and intimidating to young patients. Especially for children with chronic health problems, a health appointment can become an anxiety-inducing situation that dulls healing and growth. How can young patients be put at ease in healthcare environments?

Many healthcare providers and caregivers may believe that environment design elements are simply cosmetic and have no impact on patient outcomes. But new research tells a different story: built environments can play a significant role in shaping patient experiences and emotions. Incorporating smart design elements into pediatric healthcare environments can create spaces that are more welcoming, comforting, and healing for children.

Psychological and Physical Effects of Fear and Anxiety in Children

Children who experience fear and anxiety during healthcare procedures may suffer from both psychological and physical effects. The emotional stress that comes from medical procedures can lead to feelings of helplessness, isolation, and trauma. This can make it more difficult for children to trust medical professionals and cooperate with treatment, prolonging healing times and increasing medical costs.

When anxiety surfaces, it can trigger the release of cortisol and other stress hormones that suppress the immune system. A child’s immune system stunted by anxiety can create long-term physical and mental health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Elements of Smart Design

To create a stress-free environment in a healthcare setting, every furniture design detail needs to be considered. Certain colors, such as blues and greens, have a calming effect and can reduce anxiety, while brighter colors such as yellows and oranges can be energizing and uplifting. Different materials like soft polyethylene plastic and textiles bring a relaxing touch sensation. The use of murals, artwork, and nature-inspired decor can also create a more welcoming environment and distract children from medical procedures. Healthcare providers can also incorporate lighting that can be adjusted based on patient preferences, such as dimmer lights for relaxation or brighter lights for activities that require more attention.

In addition to colors and decor, smart design in pediatric healthcare environments includes child-friendly furniture and supporting equipment. Chairs and tables with rounded edges and soft surfaces, can reduce the risk of injury and create a more welcoming atmosphere. By taking these steps to create a more child-friendly environment, healthcare providers can improve the healthcare experience for young patients and their families.

Technology and Play

With smarter furniture design,  pediatric healthcare environments can integrate interactive technology. With tech like virtual reality, young patients can be distracted from their procedures, reducing their anxiety, and making the healthcare experience more enjoyable. A child undergoing a painful procedure can be immersed in a virtual world while settling into calming and ergonomic furniture. This can make the experience less stressful and reduce the need for sedation or anesthesia. Interactive technology can also be used to educate children about their medical conditions and treatments, which can empower them and improve their adherence to medical regimens.

Smart design in pediatric healthcare environments should encourage play and exploration. Children who are given the opportunity to play and explore during their healthcare experience can feel more in control and empowered, which can reduce their anxiety and improve their overall healthcare outcomes. Interactive games, toys, books, and whimsical furniture are playful and work well in healthcare environments. Outdoor play areas can also provide a respite from the clinical environment and allow children to enjoy some fresh air. By creating a playful environment that supports child development, healthcare providers can bring positive experiences to  young patients that reduce anxiety and contribute to their overall wellbeing.

Furniture That Heals

A smart design approach to pediatric environments ensures that children’s health is being cared for in a stress-free atmosphere. Young patients should associate medical appointments with healing, not fear. At Norix, our kid’s furniture is designed to the specifications of a healthcare environment and embedded with the smart design elements that relieve stress. View our kid’s collection here and contact us for more information on purchasing furniture for your space.