Psychosocially Supportive Design: The Case for Greater Attention to Social Space Within the Pediatric Hospital

HERD. 2018 Apr;11(2):151-162. doi: 10.1177/1937586717731739. Epub 2017 Oct 12.


Objective: Models of patient and family-centered care advocate catering to psychosocial needs when designing healthcare facilities yet there is little evidence available to determine how the built environment can cater to psychosocial needs. This article highlights the obstacles to overcoming this knowledge deficit in the pursuit of evidence-based guidelines to inform social provisions within the pediatric hospital setting. It will propose a working definition for psychosocial space and identify new research directions to enhance understandings of the relationship between social space and well-being.

Background: While traditional multibed ward configurations afforded opportunities for peer support relationships to develop, both for patients and caregivers, the contemporary preference for single-occupancy rooms intensifies the need to critically examine social spaces within the pediatric hospital.

Methods: Research suggests a correlation between social support and well-being. This article reviews the research underpinning contemporary understandings of this relationship; it positions literature from sociology, environmental psychology, and evidence-based design to highlight the limitations of this knowledge and identify where additional research is required to inform evidence-based design guidelines for psychosocially supportive spaces within pediatric healthcare settings.

Conclusions: Evidence regarding the therapeutic value of social support within the pediatric hospital is not sufficiently sophisticated or conclusive to inform guidelines for the provision of social space with pediatric hospitals. There is an urgent need for targeted research to inform evidence-based design guidelines; this will demand a broad disciplinary approach.

Keywords: evidence-based design; multibed ward; single occupancy; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Psychology
  • Family
  • Hospital Design and Construction
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / standards*
  • Humans
  • Patients' Rooms / standards*
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Support