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Designing caregiver respite spaces

Caregiver respite spaces

Sometimes referred to as “on-call rooms”, respite spaces are important to protect caregiver mental health and well-being.

Nurses need to take care of themselves before they can take care of others. Healthcare staff need places to recharge, step away and recover during their shift.12 When stressful situations arise, or a break from workload demands is needed, respite spaces are important to protect caregiver mental health and well-being – or just provide a distraction-free place to catch up on work.

Many healthcare systems have significantly altered their policies to protect their workers from stress and burnout since the pandemic. However, staff shortages, unsupportive work culture or managers, or even the lack of legal right to take a break in some states can be factors in the adoption of respite spaces.

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Design considerations

There are several design considerations for designing a respite space:

  • The respite room should not simply be a large break room that serves an entire ward. Respite spaces do not have to be large – 120 square feet is sufficient.
  • Plan to place respite rooms along main circulation paths, allowing them to be physically removed from the main floor but only steps away from the action.
  • Outdoor views are desirable, bringing in natural daylight and views to nature can support relaxation.
  • Since patient areas are flooded with bright lighting, the respite room should have dimmable overhead lights and small lamps. The ability to adjust curtains to reduce glare is helpful.
  • Offer a “homey” ambiance that contrasts with clinical spaces by using soft seating and lounge furniture, ottomans, rocking chairs and recliners to relax and get off their feet, and lower illumination levels.
Biophillia is the innate human instinct to connect with nature and other living things. In design, it is used to increase connectivity to the natural environment and foster a sense of well-being. Studies have shown it has many positive impacts on physical & mental health.
- Dr. Mike O'Neill
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  • To fully support occasional work tasks even with soft seating, offer pillows that the user can position for functional support during use of laptop or tablet. Provide floor lamps or task lighting that can be positioned to reduce glare for work tasks using mobile technology. 
  • Consider an HVAC upgrade for better air exchange, filtration, and temperature and humidity control to reduce risk of airborne disease transmission, and to improve air quality within the space. Better air quality can reduce allergy symptoms, eye irritation and is shown to increase cognitive performance.13 If an HVAC upgrade is not in the budget, high quality portable HEPA filtration units could be used.
Color and materiality are all important considerations when designing an effective respite room. Restorative spaces should use soft, nature-inspired color palettes that give the user a place to relax. Rich, authentic textures and comfortable furnishings help people to feel safe and comforted.
- Dr. Mike O'Neill
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Caregiver Spaces

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