Neonatal Intensive Care Units

NICU waiting areas are different from most typical waiting rooms in that often times the families spend several days in these spaces rather than waiting to come in for an appointment and leaving.

Innovative Techniques used in NICU Waiting Rooms:
Because it is important for families to still have frequent interaction with their babies while in the NICU, many facilities have been practicing different ways of creating a more "long term" waiting space that serves a different function than a typical waiting room.

NICU and Postpartum Units at Hybrid Postpartum/NICU Suite:
  • The mother is still in her own postpartum room that is adjacent to the NICU suite where the baby is staying so she still feels a connection
  • A window between the two units allows the mother to check on the baby
  • Creates a more home-like environment
  • Promotes more successful lactation
  • Allows family members to also feel closer to the baby
Neonatal Intensive Care Units - Health Architecture Neonatal Intensive Care Units - Health Architecture

Neonatal Intensive Care Units - Health Architecture

Family Support Space:
  • Alternatives to waiting rooms, such as family lounge areas, can be located adjacent to the NICU
  • Should have comfortable furniture that can be moved around in the case that families might be staying here for long amounts of time
  • Educational space should be allocated so families can learn about necessary caregiving techniques
  • There should be a play area for any children that might visit
  • Private space with acoustical privacy to allow for phone calls or nursing/doctor consultations
Neonatal Intensive Care Units - Health Architecture Neonatal Intensive Care Units - Health Architecture
UC San Diego Medical Center Cancer Center waiting lounge area Good Samaritan Hospital phone carrel

Important Design Considerations

There are several different design considerations that should be taken into effect when rethinking NICU waiting room design. A lot of stress comes along with having an infant in the NICU so it is important to think about different ways to reduce stress in the spaces where families will be spending most of their time.
  • Creating views and access to nature has been found to reduce stress levels and distract patients from their problems
  • Effective daylighting is a positive design feature in addition to brightening a room
  • Creating a comfortable space will reduce anxiety and allow family members to relax
Neonatal Intensive Care Units - Health Architecture
Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital therapeutic garden

1. Malkin, J. (2008). A Visual Reference for Evidence-Based Design. Concord, CA: The Center for Health Design.
2. Thompson, T., Beaman, S., Heflin, L. “The Challenges of Extended Postpartum Recovery for NICU Mothers: A proposed architectural solution”.

3. Verderber, S. (2010). Innovations in Hospital Architecture. New York, NY: Routledge
4. White, R.D. (2007). Recommended standards for newborn ICU design. Report on the seventh consensus conference on newborn ICU design. Clearwater Beach, FL.

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