LANCASTER, Pa. — Members of the Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design (NIHD) recently gathered at the Lancaster headquarters of Ecore, a leading producer of flooring performance surfaces, to discuss how to improve nurse wellness within the healthcare built environment design.
The meeting highlighted the importance of recognizing how the physical and emotional health of nurses influences the quality of care delivered in healthcare facilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), injuries among healthcare workers rank among the highest by industry. NIHD and Ecore believe that by improving seating, and providing better work tools and new technology to a more ergonomically-oriented healthcare environment, facilities can improve the performance and wellness of nurses.
Mark Huxta, director of healthcare sales at Ecore International, explained that the extended hours each shift and the demands to be bedside as much as possible make a nurse’s work day exhausting, stressful and physically challenging. The average age of modern-day nurses is 50-years-old and most walk over eight miles a day within 10-12-hour shifts. Ecore contends that using a flooring product that provides a balance between impact reduction for footfalls and energy restitution for ergonomic benefits can be less fatiguing while also reducing physical stress and strain to the lower extremities.
“Studies support that the physical and mental wellness of the caregiver can impact the quality of care delivered bedside which reflects on the patient experience,” said Huxta. “Lower back, leg and foot ailments are generally considered to be a leading cause for lost time, productivity and workman’s compensation claims among nurses. Traditional resilient flooring products contribute to these conditions and with an aging nurse population working long shifts, the problem becomes further exacerbated.”
Patient surveys also indicate that too often the healing space can be noisy, which can negatively affect the patient experience and outcomes. A noisy environment can also create communication issues and elevate stress for the staff, noting that products providing enhanced acoustic benefits are considered a critical part of the overall design strategy to create healthier healing environments.
Consequently, designers, architects and specifiers are paying more attention to ergonomic materials in the healthcare setting, including how a floor — the foundation of the healthcare environment design — can contribute to nurse comfort and health.
“Unfortunately, in healthcare, flooring is often specified last in the design process and ergonomic flooring with safety and acoustic features is far too often ‘value engineered out’ of the selection due to cost,” Kay Rademacher, president-elect of NIHD, said in a statement. “Ergonomic flooring should not be a last minute consideration. When healthcare staff have a better quality of life at work it impacts the quality of care they provide, which in turn can contribute meaningful improvements to patient care and overall satisfaction rates.”
According to Huxta, further studies are now underway, including a Pebble Project focused on how flooring may reduce the risk of injury from patient falls, a concern that has both personal and financial ramifications for the patient and provider.