Designing For Caregivers – HCD Magazine

The pandemic has confirmed a greater need to address caregivers’ personal workplace health, both physical and mental, as part of facility design. In the HERD Journal survey, “Code Lavender: Designing Healthcare Spaces to Enhance Caregiver Wellness,” 80 percent of survey respondents said that staff restorative spaces are more important than ever. Previous efforts to focus on staff well-being in healthcare design have included staff respite rooms, outdoor areas, and offstage spaces for staff to decompress and relax.

Another concept, Code Lavender, is gaining renewed attention in light of current events. This rapid-response protocol for caregivers experiencing acute stress, or mental or emotional exhaustion, focuses on crisis intervention rather than burnout prevention and is a way to immediately address a stressful event to avoid anxiety, PTSD, and desensitization. As part of the program, a staff member can receive support from a Code Lavender team, which can consist of representatives from the spiritual-care and healing-services departments, plus other hospital-based support services, including music therapy, wellness, ethics consultation , and art therapy. Additionally, a Lavender Room is a flexible space that’s intended to support Code Lavender events, which could include holistic, therapeutic, and spiritual practices such as Reiki, meditation, aromatherapy, acupressure, or prayer.

At UCI Health’s new Medical Center-Irvine (UCIMC), scheduled to open in May 2025, nursing leadership prioritized the inclusion of Lavender Rooms as part of an enhanced staff environment, which also includes team-based workspaces, staff-only terraces and levels, and amenity-laden lounges.

The UCIMC Lavender Rooms are located on every patient floor, away from the nurses’ station and in locations that offer full-height windows with unfettered views of the adjacent San Joaquin Marsh. The spaces are outfitted with comfortable finishes and flexible furniture, as well as massage chairs, music players, and other stress-relieving elements. As part of the protocol, staff members using a Code Lavender room will not be called back to work until they’re ready.

“In today’s healthcare environment, caregivers are experiencing high levels of mental and emotional stress, and we must be committed to creating work environments where caregivers feel supported and thrive,” said Brooke Baldwin, chief nursing executive at UCI Health (Irvine, Calif.). told CO Architects during the project. “Lavender Rooms, as part of the safe and supportive staff environment of our new medical complex, provide a place where caregivers can go to decompress after particularly stressful events.”

For architects accepting the challenge of creating healing environments, Lavender Rooms are a viable option to help address the daily stressful events for caregivers in a way not previously considered.

Gina Chang, AIA, EDAC, is a Principal at CO Architects (Los Angeles), specializing in healthcare architecture. She can be reached at gchang@coarchitects.com.

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