We need to cater for Mental Health in our Health Care Fitouts

Anzac Day this week - a clear reminder of how highly we should regard our veterans. A reminder too, of how important it is to provide quality health care fitouts which cater for their specific needs.
Not all of our war veterans fall into the elderly category; many are less than middle aged. Caring for their mental health is a high priority, given we know now what effects PTSD can have.

So, how can we make our health care fitouts work well for them?

The Focus:
Veterans, both old and young, are usually treated regularly over a long period of time, so focusing on a fitout which not only welcomes but also offers them a solid sense of belonging is so important. Both patient and family members should experience a feeling of caring service in a family-like atmosphere as soon as they enter the health care fitout.

The Indoor Spaces and Places:
Sharing stories and listening to others is part of the healing process, so having spaces which divide off or open up for small face-to-face interactions or larger groups is advisable. Sliding panels are great to connect and separate when necessary. They can be well concealed within a wall or constructed to slide on the outside of a wall with a decorative track system. Either way, versatility is the key.

The Outdoor Spaces and Places:
Being able to access a courtyard or enclosed outdoor space is increasingly important for mental health. It is widely known that daylight can be of significant health benefit for everyone, so having level access to the outdoors is a definite plus. Eliminating glare is vital, since overpowering light can cause unease. At the very least, if an outdoor area isn’t possible, choosing an indoor space which is east facing and has visibility to the outdoors can be of benefit.

The Part Nature can Play:
In any health care fitout, it is widely considered that having links to nature encourages positive emotional and physiological changes. So incorporating a garden, indoors, outdoors or both, can be of real benefit. Even on a reduced scale, something as simple as grouping attractive indoor plants or installing a green wall will assist in reducing stress.

The Clear Pathways:
Carefully planned wayfinding is a key element in eliminating patient stress and discomfort in a health care fitout. There will always be some patients and visitors who won’t be familiar with the practice layout so by providing clear visual cues, well written and manufactured signage, they will be more self-reliant and confident in the facility. There will also be less stress on staff in dealing with lost and confused people. Feeling safe and secure is a desirable position for everyone concerned.

The Furniture Flexibility:
The need for wheelchairs or walking frames to be integrated into a furnished space for both individual consultation and group work is a must. Make it easy for patients to join groups as well as sitting alone, by choosing seating which can be quickly re-arranged, is stable, comfortable for lengthy periods and has arm support. A mix of individual seats and lounge style is advisable. Check the weight capability of all

Regardless of the type of health care fitout it is - general practice, allied health or a specialised field, following some simple design ideas can help practitioners connect with their patients.

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