Impact of Single Family NICU Rooms on Family Behavior

Dec 01, 2008

Many hospitals are expanding or adding neonatal services, resulting in new construction and experimentation with innovative facility design. One of the most significant innovations has been to provide private single family rooms (SFRs) rather than multi-bed bays. This study examined the interactions between families and staff, families and other families, and families and infants in these two settings. Two Midwestern, Level III neonatal intensive care units were studied in this project. Forty hours of behavioral observation were gathered using pocket PCs preprogrammed with observational software which allowed the observers to record verbal, visual and body behaviors. The primary hypotheses of this study were that: 1) interactions between families in single family rooms would decrease in the single family room setting relative to the Open Bay setting; 2) interactions between families and staff would decrease in the single family room settings relative to the Open Bay Setting; and 3) interactions between families and infants would increase in the single family room settings relative to the Open Bay setting.

Overall, the data suggested the occurrence of more frequent interactions in Open Bay units, but longer interactions in SFRs. From a design perspective it might be recommended that Open Bay units provide spaces which permit longer encounters between families and other families and staff, and that SFRs provide more spaces that allow for spontaneous encounters with other families and staff, while taking into consideration unnecessarily large distances between rooms.

Mardelle McCuskey Shepley (ART + Science)
Debra Harris (IDR Studio)
Robert White (Memorial Hospital of South Bend)
Florence Steinberg (Bronson Methodist Hospital)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects

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