When establishing a new practice, or renovating an existing one, first impressions are important – to children, adolescents and patient families alike. The waiting room and the overall practice feel set the tone for your practice. Is it inviting? Is it bright? Is it comfortable? Parents will judge your practice by what they see, starting in the waiting room. Parents and patients communicate to others about their experience and refer friends to your practice.
Designing a space with families in mind and creating a flexible space environment are important aspects to consider when starting or remodeling your practice.
Here is an easy checklist of ideas to consider:
- Is the environment child-friendly? The environment should invoke comfort, play, and harmony. It should encourage engagement with the space, such as colorful walls with play sections by age group and potentially a high-tech area for adolescents. Wi-Fi is expected by a teenage crowd and appreciated by parents.
- How does your waiting room look? Scrutinize the space and check for cleanliness, furniture wear, up-to-date reading material and pre-packaged gift toys.
- Do you offer positive distractions? You could consider projecting images on walls, mirrors and interactive games, even an aquarium. Some practices offer up small, wrapped ‘take home’ toys to manage infection control. Televisions are not encouraged, as TV tastes vary.
- Are your furniture scaled to the audience? A child’s world is a small world, so child-appropriate seating is important.
- Do you offer intuitive signage and directions? Creating a feeling of being welcome for a child requires to offer a space where transitioning from waiting room to exam room should never cause anxiety or fear and where staff can be visible in well-lit areas with glass dividers.
- Are you aware of all the safety requirements? This includes infection prevention and control, as well as physical safety in the waiting room, exam rooms, and on the general premises.
- Does the environment support providers and caregivers? Clinical providers and staff have a deep investment in their patients and the practice environment needs to support this dedication. Rooms should provide ample light, good visibility and quick access to supplies, medications and distraction tools.
- Does your practice keep up with social networks? Children and adolescents live in a connected world and your practice needs to both understand, use, support and create appropriate boundaries for the use of social media.
- Does your practice have a space for inter- or multidisciplinary programs? You help your patients with pediatric care and advice. Offering space for community groups, support programs, child educators and psychologists, and police/safety groups will enhance your connection to your patient population.
- Do you know what your patients think of the layout and comfort of your practice? If you really want to know what your patients think about your pediatric practice – ask them. A simple survey, while your patients wait, or a message via your patient portal would be valuable. To a parent and adolescent patient, it shows that you care.
Pediatric practices that provide a peaceful and healing care environment will be appreciated and referred to their friends and perceived as a positive community addition. A serene, relaxing, clean and inviting waiting room and overall practice may be worth the investment.