The Effect of Hospital Unit Layout on Nurse Walking Behavior

December 5, 2012


Objective: To confirm a new method for the research question, “How do different hospital unit layouts affect nurses' walking behavior and distance?”

Background: Concern is renewed regarding nurses' long walking distances because of the trend toward larger patient rooms with family areas inside, resulting in a larger overall unit size. Studies have found unit design characteristics that support nurses' efficient walking, but few have done it in units designed for patient- and family-centered care. To examine the effect of unit design on nurses' walking behavior, the authors propose a new method of observing a specific task.

Methods: The authors observed nurses during the task of medication administration.

Results: Contrary to their hypotheses, results showed: (1) Experienced nurses had more unnecessary stops and longer walking distances than new nurses because of interactions; and (2) nurses in the smaller wing of the unit walked more than those in the larger wing of the same unit. The authors posit that the closeness between the nurses' path to the medication supply room and the central nurses' station affected the frequency of interactions and prompted a deviation from the shortest and most efficient path during medication administration.

Conclusion: Observing a specific task to identify the effect of unit layout was effective, determining that overall unit shape or unit layout type might not be a good predictor of nurses' walking behavior; instead the characteristics of the path that connects functional spaces such as patient room and medication area might better predict nurses' walking behavior.

Key Words: Nurse, walking, unit, medication administration, task, patient-centered care

Preferred Citation: Yi, L., & Seo, H-B. (2012). The effect of hospital unit layout on nurse walking behavior. Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 6(1), 66-82.

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