Restorative Design Features for Hospital Staff Break Areas: A Multi-Method Study

HERD. 2016 Winter;9(2):16-35. doi: 10.1177/1937586715592632. Epub 2015 Jul 10.


Objectives: The study investigated the main restorative components of staff break areas in healthcare facilities, by assessing usage patterns, verbal/visual preferences, and perceived restorative qualities of specific design features found in break areas for hospital staff.

Background: Nurses are extremely important to the healthcare industry, and maintaining the quality of nursing care is a central concern for healthcare administrators. While healthcare leaders are concerned about improving nurses' satisfaction, performance, and job retention, they may overlook the importance of respite for nurses and underestimate the value of designing staff break areas to maximize their restorative potential.

Methods: A multi-method approach combined qualitative explorations (focused interviews and narrative survey questions) with quantitative measurements (discrete survey questions and a visual ranking of break-room spaces), and the results were compared and triangulated.

Results: It was found that staff break areas are more likely to be used if they are in close proximity to nurses' work areas, if they have complete privacy from patients and families, and if they provide opportunities for individual privacy as well as socialization with coworkers. Having physical access to private outdoor spaces (e.g., balconies or porches) was shown to have significantly greater perceived restorative potential, in comparison with window views, artwork, or indoor plants.

Conclusions: The results of this empirical study support the conclusion that improvements in the restorative quality of break areas may significantly improve nurses' satisfaction and stress reduction, potentially leading to improved care for the patients they serve.

Keywords: break spaces; built environment; fatigue; health; nurse; policy; quality of care; rest break.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Facility Design and Construction / standards*
  • Humans
  • Nature
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Occupational Health / standards*
  • Privacy
  • Sunlight
  • Surveys and Questionnaires