August 10, 2017

At the grand opening celebration for Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) Rehabilitation Pavilion, a young woman in her 20s, the survivor of a devastating automobile accident, spoke about her experience at SMH’s previous rehabilitation facility. She was moved to tears as she talked candidly about the quality of care she had received during her month-long recuperation. Hospital leadership was also at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and spoke of how the dedicated teamwork of staff and physicians, along with the construction and design teams, directly contributed to the success of their new rehabilitation facility.

Having served as the interior designer on the project, I was also moved that day, and shared their immense sense of pride and anticipation about relocating to a new space that was finally commensurate with the high-quality care that patients have come to expect from SMH.

When the hospital elected to design and construct the new 74,000-square-foot, five-story rehab pavilion, they called on Gresham Smith to provide architecture, interior design, and comprehensive planning services for the project. Because their existing circa 1960s space was no longer serving their needs, they sought an inspiring and welcoming state-of-the-art facility that offered new and enhanced treatments, and a wide range of amenities to improve the patient rehab experience.

In this post, I take a closer look at how our design helped support the client’s goal.


A Vital Test Run

To help guide the client with the configuration of the private inpatient rooms for the pavilion’s fourth and fifth floors, Gresham Smith designed and built a full-scale mock-up of the proposed inpatient room. The goal was to provide a standardized room layout that would apply to both inpatient floors. To completely outfit the room, we brought in all of the medical equipment, furniture, wall-mounted items and lighting fixtures.

Regular meetings and tours were held in the mock-up room throughout the design phase, giving patients, physicians, staff and community members the opportunity to provide constructive feedback that positively contributed to the overall design. Based on comments received, several finishes and equipment locations were revised and casework was reconfigured.

A post-occupancy interview with staff revealed that patient satisfaction scores were higher not only because the inpatient rooms provide accommodations for overnight guests, but also because they are quieter, greatly improving a patient’s chance of getting a good night’s rest. This is key, as most patients typically spend a minimum of three hours a day in rehabilitation therapy.



Preparing for the Real World, Mind, Body & Soul

Each patient’s care plan has a list of goals directly related to obstacles they will face in the home environment. For this reason, particular emphasis was placed on the operational efficiency of the inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation gyms. Both feature life-skills retraining areas such as a mock grocery store, a mock car, and a mobile-home staircase and entry door, which provide unique simulation therapy, allowing patients to practice real-world activities to help them regain their independence.

Both inpatient floors also include an ADL (activities of daily living) apartment complete with a residential-style kitchen, bedroom, dining and laundry facility, and a full bathroom outfitted with a residential-size tub and shower.



New Building, New Opportunities 

Along with focusing on physical independence, the spaces were designed to support a patient’s emotional well-being. For example, the interior’s soft color palette strikes a beautiful harmony with the artwork, natural lighting and high ceilings, creating a calming environment for patients and their families.

Corridors were designed to offer respite by providing resting niches at regular intervals where patients can take a break on cushioned benches that serve as destination points during gait training. Each niche features an inspirational quote encouraging them to persevere. Patients are also encouraged to eat and commune in the facility’s restaurant-style “Day Dining” area. This bright, open space offers a place to socialize and build relationships, or simply enjoy watching TV and playing games.


The new building also brought new opportunities to provide spaces that were limited or otherwise non-existent in the old facility, such as an outdoor mobility garden that serves as a fall-prevention and ambulatory-mobility tool. The wheelchair-accessible garden includes pathways with various ground coverings, a small walking bridge, and a staircase to help patients navigate varying types of terrains. It also features planting beds for gardening and a putting green to encourage patients to practice the hobbies they once enjoyed.


A Sense of Pride

Providing comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative services, the new Rehabilitation Pavilion represented a blank slate for Sarasota Memorial Hospital in which to begin a fresh start with new spaces and expanded services.

I leave this project with a great sense of pride in knowing that our value-added design solutions and collaborative teamwork have enhanced the human experience by creating an inspiring atmosphere of hope and healing.