Cleveland, OH,
16:07 PM

Meet the former nurse leading the interior design research for our new hospital

3-16-2018 TerriZborowsky

We know our new hospital is going to improve the health of our community.

Can the design of the hospital help heal our patients as well?

Terri Zborowsky says yes, and she has evidence to prove it. She is a design researcher with Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc., the firm leading the design, architecture and engineering of our Campus Transformation. She’s also a former registered nurse and holds master’s and doctorate degrees in interior design.

Although Terri works out of HGA’s Minneapolis office, she is in Cleveland a couple times a month, working with our design team and sharing her research. She is an expert on how interior environments can affect the health, safety and well-being of patients, their families and hospital staff.

Through focus groups, questionnaires and other research, she defines the needs of patients – safety and security top the list – and then looks for ways to use the built environment to fulfill those needs.

Since hospital visits usually mean heightened anxiety for patients and their families, an important goal of the design team is to create a comfortable, “normalizing” environment, she says.

“Studies show that natural light, natural colors and natural materials promote healing,” Terri says. “The first entry point cannot be screaming ‘institution’ anymore.”

The environment goes beyond lighting and paint colors. Air quality, temperature, sounds, even smells need to be considered, she said. She wants the new hospital to offer spaces for self-reflection, healing artwork, lots of windows, easy wayfinding and corridors that end with windows that look out on the neighborhood and local landmarks. This helps orient patients and visitors, reducing stress.

Research proves this stuff works.

Terri explains that in one study, researchers compared patient experiences at six New York outpatient centers within the same health system. Three were updated sites with artwork and a spa-like aesthetic, and three were less attractive, with neutral paint and “synthetic” furniture. Surveyed afterward, patients in the more attractive sites believed they had waited less time and received a higher quality of care even though the care was the same.

In another study, artwork depicting nature scenes was installed in an emergency department waiting area. Patients and visitors were observed for months with the artwork and without. When nature scenes were on display, restlessness, noise and questions to the front desk decreased. Social interaction among patients and visitors increased.

“People follow cues,” Terri says. “Where you are and how you are being treated tell you how you should behave.”

She’s also working with the design team to improve the staff experience and efficiency. For example, she says that nurses currently spend roughly 20 percent of their time “hunting and gathering.” If spaces are designed better, that will give nurses more time with patients and families.

Terri says she’s eager to work with Metrohealth’s Arts in Medicine program and to extend her expertise outside, to our campus green space.

“My role is to bring this research to the table, to inform the team what works,” she says. “We can help patients through our design.”