Picture this: A design team spends months and major dollars renovating a space only to open and quickly receive change requests from the staff. The sharps container location is preventing the cabinet from opening; the hand sanitizer is on the wrong side of the door; no one ordered the new trash cans or paper towel dispensers for the new 20-room clinic; and now the team is scrounging to get the clinic operational before patients arrive. These “small” items may not seem like a major setback to the project, but why is it so difficult to remember to have them available and in the correct location for use?

A possible reason that these small items are overlooked is because spaces are designed without input from day-to-day staff. When designing a clinical space, it is imperative to create multidisciplinary teams consisting of the front-line staff. Anyone who will be working in that space or be responsible for maintaining it should be considered a design influencer. Other than the obvious — nursing and physicians — think about environmental services (EVS), infection prevention, radiology and respiratory staff, to name a few. 

Engaging these groups at the beginning of the design phase can help identify issues that may not arise until after the space is built. For example, having input from the EVS team may shed light on the fact that the paper towel holders are sketched to be mounted too high beneath a cabinet, which would prevent a technician from being able to open and reload the dispenser. 

Some issues to consider before opening design meetings to additional people are to keep an eye on project scope and time creep. It can be difficult to schedule any meeting that will fit many different schedules. Facilities professionals also should be sure to stick to original design deadlines in order to keep the progress moving forward. Also, when including various groups, they should not let the design expand into a “wish list” or a competition for differing priorities. 

A tool from the American Society for Health Care Engineering can help by creating a checklist of items that need to be purchased and the final decision-maker for each item. Members can use the link in the box above to access the tool.