Evaluating Usage, Preferences, and Perceived Restorative Qualities of Staff Break Areas in Healthcare Facilities



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Nurses are extremely important to the healthcare industry, and maintaining the quality of nursing care is one of the central concerns of today?s healthcare managers. Unfortunately, the nursing profession in the U.S. is on the precipice of a crisis. Healthcare facilities are suffering from high rates of staff burnout and turnover, and interest in the profession among younger students is on the decline. Healthcare leaders are concerned for improving nurses? satisfaction, performance, and job retention, but they often overlook the importance of respite for nurses, and underestimate the value of well-furnished staff break areas. A healthy break area can improve nurses? mood, attitude, and alertness, factors that have been associated with a higher quality of patient care and better facility outcomes. In this study, the researcher gathered empirical evidence regarding nurses? desires and responses to different environmental features of staff break areas. The design interventions that were tested included (a) the proximity of break areas to work areas, (b) levels of socializing vs. privacy, (c) visual and physical access to the outdoors, (d) the presence of artworks, plants, and natural light, and (e) amenities for indoor and outdoor break spaces. These break-room features were examined in regard to their perceived restorative qualities and their potential to affect staff usage and satisfaction. A multi-method approach was used in the research, employing both qualitative explorations (focused interviews and narrative survey questions) and quantitative measurements (discrete survey questions and a visual ranking of break-room spaces). Important findings include the result that staff break areas are more likely to be used if they are in close proximity to nurses? work areas, that these spaces need complete privacy from patients and families, and that it is most effective to provide a mixture of opportunities for individual privacy and socialization with co-workers. Having physical access to private outdoor spaces (e.g., balconies or porches) was shown to have a significantly greater restorative effect in comparison with window views, artwork, or indoor plants. The study outcomes were incorporated into a set of design and policy suggestions to encourage effective improvements in the quality of nurses? rest breaks.