Healthcare Signage for Employees

May 11, 2016

Improving the Healthcare Experience—for Healthcare Workers

At Identity Group, we do a lot of signage and wayfinding design for large, complex medical facilities. Our efforts tend to stay focused on patient needs: How can we help them find their destinations in these huge hospital campuses? How can we create signage that simultaneously directs and reassures stressed-out patients and visitors? These are big questions, and as designers and planners, we go to great lengths to observe and record signage deficiencies and other issues in terms of the patient experience as we study our clients’ facilities.

One question we don’t always ask first is how our work can improve the staff’s experience. Part of the answer is pretty direct: as we improve patients’ orientation and wayfinding experiences, those patients don’t have to rely on medical personnel so much to find their destinations; thus, staff members have more time to dedicate to their life-saving work. But what else can make their work easier?

A central staff area at a US Navy ICU aboard the USNS Comfort. Image courtesy Wikimedia commons.
A central staff area at a US Navy ICU aboard the USNS Comfort. Image courtesy Wikimedia commons.

Designing Workspaces

Healthcare Design magazine recently examined how medical facilities can and do use design to optimize the medical work environment for employees. The benefits, claims Carolyn BaRoss—Perkins+Will’s healthcare interior design director—are crucial: “It’s in healthcare organizations’ best interest to have happy and healthy staff who enjoy their workplace and are as effective as possible in it.”

The Healthcare Design article and BaRoss describe several key points for creating these environments. Locating and designing break rooms to provide a clean division between treatment areas and staff break areas offers personnel a chance to “refresh and recharge,” and the amenities in these break areas—from recliners to meditation spaces—create areas of diversion that “allow caregivers some respite from the reminders of work.”

Design can better accommodate workers on the clock, too. In one renovated emergency department, Perkins+Will implemented partially private workstations in open team areas using glazed partitions; these partitions allowed staff to concentrate on their work even while keeping an eye on their patients.

Using Signage to Make Enough Space for Everyone

Although we tend to focus on the patient experience, we make sure to consider staff needs as well. As mentioned above, creating distinct spaces for facility personnel is a key component of enabling a clean break between work and break time. Although architectural and interior design planning are the primary components of strong staff support systems, a quality signage system can also help create these spaces.

Clear and consistent wayfinding signage reduces patient stress and reliance on staff.
Clear and consistent wayfinding signage reduces patient stress and reliance on staff.

For example, when we plan sign systems, we tend to identify staff restrooms and break areas as “Staff Only” areas. It might seem like a bit of an omission not to mark a restroom as a restroom; however, facility staff already tend to know where these areas are. Signing these rooms as restrooms or break areas amplify the possibility that patients and visitors will ignore the “Staff Only” idea. This strategy, though it might seem subtle, helps to ensure the privacy of staff-specific areas.

Alongside identification signage, wayfinding signage can help this strategy as well. The primary focus of wayfinding signage is, as mentioned above, to direct patients and visitors to their destinations and thus reduce their reliance on personnel for directions—and a single “Authorized Personnel Only” sign insert can direct those same visitors away from areas where staff needs to keep focused on specific patients or on other work.

These strategies and others like them help us to ensure our clients have an organized facility with a robust signage system that fulfills a variety of roles. Wondering how your facility can better manage your employee’s needs while maintaining a positive patient experience? Contact us to see how we can help.