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How Social Distancing Has Impacted Today’s Design

Who would have thought back at the beginning of 2020 that we were soon to be thrown into a global pandemic.

Our worlds have definitely been thrown upside down and things that were completely foreign to most of us (especially here in Australia) such as wearing masks to the supermarket (and even while exercising outside) and social distancing have become a little too familiar and part of our daily routine. As we hear ourselves mutter keys, wallet, phone, mask each time we walk out the front door it is clear this is life for the time being.

So how has this pandemic changed the way we design for medical environments?

Design within the medical industry, especially within clinical waiting rooms, has definitely changed in the last 18 months. There was a time when we would see clinics trying to fit in as many waiting room chairs as possible but now with the introduction of mandatory social distancing the design of these spaces need to evolve to suit our new way of life.

Whether you have a small general practice, or are running a busy hospital, social distancing in order to reduce the spread of infection is going to be one of your main priorities.

Not only does social distancing work but it brings a sense of security and piece of mind when a patient walks into your clinic waiting room or hospital foyer to see that proper precautions have been put in place in order to keep everyone as safe as possible.

There are a number of ways you can ensure social distancing and good hygiene is happening within your clinic.

Signage – Clear signage can play a bigger role when it comes to social distancing than you might think.

When patients walk into your clinic’s waiting room the first thing they will instinctively do is head for the first reception desk they see. In a smaller clinic environment this is absolutely fine (and encouraged), but if you have multiple areas (all with their own reception) clear signage can reduce the risk of unnecessary congestion in the one area.

Screens   One of your main priorities when it comes to your clinic’s waiting room is the health and safety of your staff. As your receptionists are dealing with patients face to face for up to 8 hours a day the installation of sneeze guards can provide a protective barrier, creating peace of mind for both staff and patients.

Furniture  The days of sitting on a couch next to another patient are a thing of the past (and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing!).

These days people want to feel comfortable sitting down in the waiting room with space between them and the next person.

Of course this means less patients per area but it also means you can get creative with some bigger furniture pieces to really give your reception/ clinic waiting room that special feel.

Medical Grade Upholstery – Although it may cost a bit more to have your furniture upholstered in medical grade fabric and/or vinyl it is well worth the investment.

Not only are you safe-guarding your staff and patients from the transmission of germs that may end up on your clinic’s waiting room seating but you are also purchasing a durable material for your furniture that will last much longer than your run of the mill fabrics.

Outdoor Space  Utilising unused outdoor spaces can make a huge difference to both staff and patients who are able to move around the facility.

Rooms with balconies where possible can make a huge difference in someones stay, especially if they are restricted to one room.

Landscape gardening in spaces that otherwise don’t get much use can also be beneficial to the recovery of patients by giving them somewhere to go for a walk.

When it comes to clinic and waiting room design not only do we need to be thinking about the current situation but what could potentially come in the future and the design we use to today needs to have the ability to adapt.