Healthcare Quarterly features West Park article

Study explores experiences of patients, family, and hospital staff to inform potential implementation of family zones

A rendering of the patient rooms in the new hospital show a bright, large room with a patient talking to a visitor

West Park researchers recently had an exciting article featured in the November issue of Healthcare Quarterly.

Lee Verweel, Manager, Research and Innovation, and Martha Harvey, Director, Operational Readiness, worked alongside University of Toronto students Madeline E. Shivgulam, Mai Landau, and Kari Steiner to produce a paper titled “Understanding the Use of Patient Rooms to Inform Family Zone Implementation: A Qualitative Study.”

The study explores the experiences of patients, family, and hospital staff to inform potential implementation of family zones (FZ), a section of the patient room that visitors use to visit their loved ones.

 “Prior to this research, I don’t think we fully understood the significance of the lack of space in our current hospital, especially in the quad rooms, and how patients, family and loved ones are really impacted by that lack of space,” Verweel says. “Our study suggests there is a preference for having a dedicated space for family presence within the in-patient’s bedroom.” 

The existing research on FZs has predominantly been conducted in critical care settings, and it is unknown how FZs in a rehabilitation and complex continuing care setting impact care experiences.

Seventeen participants consisting of five in-patients, four family members, and eight healthcare professionals were split into two focus groups for semi-structured interviews.

Two main themes were identified during this study:

1.  Family presence benefits a person’s healing and experience
2.  Physical design barriers and organizational policies can influence the effective implementation of FZs that are intended to benefit a hospitalized person’s access to social support.

The study is helping to inform implementation of FZs in the new hospital, including planning for the right physical design elements in the inpatient rooms.

“This includes space, furniture, and equipment to support family and visitor presence, especially knowing that length of stay is often longer at post-acute hospital settings,” adds Verweel.

With 80 per cent single and 20 per cent double rooms, there will be a dedicated family zone in every patient room in the new hospital. The expanded space would allow for more adequate room to visit patients, assist with care, and conduct private and confidential conversations.