Inside Children's Blog

Staff, families make furniture choices for new building

If you’ve ever spent time waiting in a hospital, you’ll appreciate the approach Akron Children’s is using to furnish its new medical tower.

The hospital recently held a “furniture fair” to give staff and patient families an opportunity to experience several furniture options and select the most comfortable and functional.

“We wouldn’t usually go to these lengths if we were just replacing a few pieces of furniture, but this is a large new furniture purchase – 2,700 individual pieces, including trash cans and magazine racks, and it includes areas that haven’t been furnished previously, like the NICU private rooms and the high-risk OB,” said Becky Baumer, a designer with HKS Architects. “There will be 6 pieces of furniture in each of the 68 NICU rooms, 3 pieces in each of 35 ED exam rooms, and 3 pieces in each of 30 pre-op rooms, plus public lobbies, staff areas and conference rooms. ”

More than 100 people, staff and family members, evaluated furniture that will be used in the new emergency department (ED), outpatient surgery center, NICU, high-risk delivery area and lobby.

Grace Wakulchik

Grace Wakulchik

The participants judged the furniture based on:

  • Overall style of the piece
  • Comfort
  • Ease of use
  • Safety

“We wanted furniture that wasn’t just comfortable for the first 30 seconds, but for a longer time if someone was waiting in the ED or for someone in outpatient surgery,” said Baumer.

A few construction workers from the site volunteered to test the sleep sofas to make sure they were comfortable for future dads. Environmental services, maintenance and food service staff also had the opportunity to provide input to make sure table and chairs for the new cafe were easy to clean and maneuver.

Although a furniture team for the building program culled down the furniture options for consideration, participants were able to select the furniture pieces they would be seeing in the new building.

As they moved through the furniture groupings, they filled out evaluation forms. HKS will tally these forms and share the results with the furniture team and hospital administration.

“There was also an area for comments, such as ‘I like this but it would be nice to have this or not have that,'” Baumer said. “The comments will be particularly helpful when we order the furniture.”

The ED, outpatient surgery center and NICU were responsible for encouraging coworkers to visit the fair, while the hospital’s parent advisory council and the NICU’s family advisory council solicited patient family participation.

“This gave us the opportunity to get input from people who haven’t been involved in other facets of the planning and expand beyond the 30 people from each department who took part in the workshops,” Baumer said.

The furniture team and environmental services previously selected the upholstery fabrics, with colors and patterns appropriate to the department themes and with an eye to maintenance, like ease of cleaning, stain resistance, and moveability.