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A private room, floor to ceiling daylight and space for family: Welcome to The Ottawa Hospital’s inpatient room of the future 

Jan 9, 2023

An architectural rendering of an inpatient room at The Ottawa Hospital’s new campus.

Adequate rest is essential for care and recovery, so providing private space for patients and their families is a key priority as The Ottawa Hospital plans its state-of-the-art new campus.  

For recovery and based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, single patient rooms are quickly becoming the gold standard for newly built health-care facilities around the world. At The Ottawa Hospital’s new campus, all patient rooms will be single rooms with private, accessible washrooms, designed to enhance patient experience. The one-patient per room model provides privacy, built-in space for families and enhanced infection control.   

“Our experience with pandemic response really reinforced how single patient rooms can enhance infection prevention and control, helping us better protect patients, families and staff members,” said Karen Stockton, The Ottawa Hospital’s Executive Director of Planning.  “As we plan for the future, we want to create a space that improves patient care and makes the experience of being in hospital better for everyone.” 

State of the art technology will allow patients and families to adjust lighting and window blinds in the patient room. The bedside terminal will be integrated with other digital health technologies that will enable staff to track information. It will also allow the patient to access their own health information, and to connect with their loved ones outside of the hospital. 

Access to daylight a priority for care 

In the process of designing inpatient rooms for the new hospital, the design team is working to ensure each room has access to natural light and views outside, alongside the room’s clinical functionality.  

“We know that access to natural light and a view of the outdoors to see both land and sky simultaneously can help people recover more quickly while they’re in hospital, so it was a priority to get the windows right,” said Karen. “The new hospital will look out on incredible natural areas, and we want patients to feel that connection to the outdoors.” 

During sunny days, large windows can warm the room. The design team conducted a series of studies to find the right balance between views and room temperature. The result? Each room will have  floor-to-ceiling windows, with window casings outside angled carefully so that patients lying in bed can see the landscape below, and without the room becoming overheated. 

The design team is also exploring the possibility of using electrochromic glass – or ‘smart glass’ – in patient rooms, building in more customization. This specialized glass is wired so that it can darken or turn opaque allowing a patient who has a sensitivity to light, or someone trying to rest during the day, to adjust the amount of light coming into the room with the touch of a button. Electrochromic glass is much easier to clean and sanitize than traditional window coverings like blinds and improves infection control.  

Family lounges on inpatient units – areas where patients and their families can spend time together – will have large windows that look out over the site, fostering strong connections throughout the building with the natural environment.  

“All of the elements in the new inpatient room design have the potential to significantly improve the experiences of people in hospital,” said Karen. “As we design the new hospital, we’re looking to the future of health care. This is an exciting time to be designing and building a hospital. We’ve learned so much navigating the pandemic, and we can apply those lessons to truly create a hospital that will support patients, families and staff members.” 

Family spaces essential to care 

Without a roommate, as might be the case in a traditional hospital ward, not only will patients at the new hospital have more privacy to get the rest they need, but their loved ones will also be able to visit more comfortably.   

“As I was recovering, I needed my family around me,” said Bushra Saeed-Khan, who was a patient at The Ottawa Hospital after she experienced a traumatic injury while on assignment in Afghanistan.   

“I had PTSD and I actually couldn’t sleep without my family in the room with me,” she said. “I would only fall asleep holding my father’s hand for comfort, and when I would wake up in the middle of the night with a night terror, just seeing my mom sitting beside me gave me this deep sense of relief.”  

Patient experiences, including Bushra’s, show that having family members stay with patients isn’t just nice to have – it’s essential to care. In her early days in hospital, Bushra was often disoriented and confused, and had difficulty speaking. Her parents and sisters were closely involved in her care, decision-making and recovery, often helping her to communicate with her care team.  

“I think it’s easier for the staff to do their jobs when the family is involved and participating in care,” said Bushra.” That was absolutely the case for me. It’s not always easy when you have a roommate. You don’t want to impose on the other person or negatively impact their care. In a single room, especially a room that’s meant to accommodate family, it’s so much better.” 

Designed to be accessible for everyone 

With a focus on patient experience, the Ottawa Hospital is working to build in flexibility and accessibility so that each patient can create an environment that makes them most comfortable. 

Every room will have extra space that allows patients or visitors who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids to move through the room easily. The private, accessible washroom will open with double sliding doors that meet on a corner, so that patients can take a direct route from the bed to the toilet or to the roll-in shower. 

“Accessibility has been embedded into all aspects of the design process on this project,” said Marnie Peters, the accessibility expert for the new hospital. “This is one of the most innovative designs I’ve seen in a hospital washroom.” 

“We don’t want people to have to fight with the door to get into the washroom, and then do a six-point turn to get next to the toilet while fighting with the sink,” she said. “When you want to go to the washroom, you want the most direct route.” 

Space and room layout was important to Bushra during her hospital experience.   

“When I first learned to use a wheelchair, I had to practice in my hospital room, and I used a wheelchair in the hospital later when I had each of my children,” said Bushra. “It can be hard to navigate around medical equipment and chairs. Having enough space is important.” 

The Ottawa Hospital continues to explore ways to upgrade facilities and equipment at all campuses, so that no matter which hospital patients visit, they can easily and comfortably access the care they need.