VCU Medical Center, Virginia Treatment Center for Children (VTCC) has been featured in an article from Behavioral Healthcare Executive titled “Consider protections for specific patient populations in designs.” While the piece emphasizes the tremendous impact facility design has on patient safety, it also addresses how design can support healing, staff safety and satisfaction, and ultimately the organization’s philosophy of care.

The full article can be read online, and key excerpts have been included below:

To say patient safety is a priority for behavioral healthcare facilities is an understatement. Federal, state and local laws and regulations offer an array of requirements for facilities to meet, but behavioral healthcare organizations also bring their own patient safety standards to the table. New inpatients are often at their most vulnerable, and self-harm protections must be considered. However, experts say design doesn’t have to be hampered by the need for safety.

Unique designs for unique treatment

“Our philosophy is to build a relationship with each child and understand his or her trauma,” says Alexandria Lewis, Ed.D., the (VTCC) facility’s executive director. “We want them and their families to partner with us in their own treatment.”

Making sure the design team understood this philosophy and the facility’s resulting priorities for patient safety was the essential starting point for designing a new facility. She and her team visited similar facilities to see how they approach design and how various design approaches work in a real-life clinical setting. However, they also recognized the need to adjust any safety-related design solutions they saw during these visits to accommodate their treatment philosophy because many of these facilities used mechanical restraints.

Creating balance

While a focus on protecting against the worst-case scenarios is essential when designing private spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms, behavioral healthcare leaders can reach for middle ground in more communal areas for dining, group activities, recreation and conversation.

Virginia Treatment Center for Children incorporated abundant natural light and outside spaces into its design to help patients heal from trauma.

“We have a number of courtyard areas that we include in therapy so that children don’t feel that they are being held within a building,” says Lewis. “They can go outside.” The facility design also relies on curves to avoid sharp edges and increase the flow of the layout.

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