The Role of the Built Environment: How Decentralized Nurse Stations Shape Communication, Patient Care Processes, and Patient Outcomes

Kevin Real, Shoshana H. Bardach, David R. Bardach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

Increasingly, health communication scholars are attending to how hospital built environments shape communication, patient care processes, and patient outcomes. This multimethod study was conducted on two floors of a newly designed urban hospital. Nine focus groups interviews were conducted with 35 health care professionals from 10 provider groups. Seven of the groups were homogeneous by profession or level: nursing (three groups), nurse managers (two groups), and one group each of nurse care technicians (“techs”) and physicians. Two mixed groups were comprised of staff from pharmacy, occupational therapy, patient care facilitators, physical therapy, social work, and pastoral care. Systematic qualitative analysis was conducted using a conceptual framework based on systems theory and prior health care design and communication research. Additionally, quantitative modeling was employed to assess walking distances in two different hospital designs. Results indicate nurses walked significantly more in the new hospital environment. Qualitative analysis revealed three insights developed in relationship to system structures, processes, and outcomes. First, decentralized nurse stations changed system interdependencies by reducing nurse-to-nurse interactions and teamwork while heightening nurse interdependencies and teamwork with other health care occupations. Second, many nursing-related processes remained centralized while nurse stations were decentralized, creating systems-based problems for nursing care. Third, nursing communities of practices were adversely affected by the new design. Implications of this study suggest that nurse station design shapes communication, patient care processes, and patient outcomes. Further, it is important to understand how the built environment, often treated as invisible in communication research, is crucial to understanding communication within complex health care systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1557-1570
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Communication
Volume32
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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