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As a young adult recovering from a serious car accident at age 17, I spent my fair share of time in various medical and dental offices, and longer in their waiting rooms.

And they always felt scary.

Not because they weren’t clean or there wasn’t semi-comfortable seating, but rather, because they felt intimidating like I was waiting for a job interview alongside dozens of others vying for the same position.

The scene was always very hush-hush, somber faces surrounding me without a smile in sight.

When the nurse finally came out to call my name, it felt like a death sentence even though I was simply there for a follow-up visit.

Healthcare design has come a very long way since those days.

Instead of plastic or metal chairs lined up like drill sergeants, fake flowers, glaring overhead lights and medical charts lined up on the walls, healing spaces are now planned with special attention to how the design can positively influence how patients and other people feel in the space.

There is growing scientific support for the importance of plants, lighting, colors, sounds and scents as key elements in reducing pain and worry, and increasing relaxation.

Materials for furniture, flooring and surfaces have also come a long way too, with more aesthetic choices that can withstand the daily disinfectant cleaning processes that are oftentimes required to kill bacteria.

3 simple things you can do now to help your patients relax and enjoy their time in your waiting room

1) Buy adult coloring books like these and place them on the side and coffee tables of your waiting room, along with colored pencils.

Coloring in color books among both adults and children has been shown to reduce anxiety, create a positive and fun distraction and relax the body.

2) Offer water and herbal tea in glass, ceramic and/or porcelain cups. Sure, most medical offices in modern history have offered water to their patients. But these have almost always been served in tiny paper cups that have always reminded me of peeing in a cup.

And while I understand the sanitary and easy clean-up reasons why paper cups were chosen, it feels way more loving and comforting for a patient to drink out of a real glass or cup.

This simple design element makes a lasting impression on your grateful patient. Take a look at these adorable cups from Anthropologie.

3) Be bold and choose at least one fun element in the design of your waiting room that also reflects your personality. This can be anything as simple as a positive affirmation displayed on one of your walls, or a funky chandelier that says, “I’m weird, too.”

Take advantage of any opportunity in your waiting room design to make your patients smile.

Check out these fun wall affirmations on Etsy.

So tell me; which of the above three simple design improvements to your waiting room interests you the most and why?

I’d love to know.

Yours Wholeheartedly,

P.S. If you’re interested in learning about the six critical transition points in the life of your healthcare practice, clinic, or facility where a new design will produce outsized results, read this.