Nursing work and sensory experiences of hospital design: A before and after qualitative study following a move to all-single room inpatient accommodation

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The embodied experience of nursing practice is rarely studied. Drawing on data from an internationally relevant larger study conducted in 2013–14, here we explore the sensory dimension of the embodied experiences of nursing staff working on two acute NHS hospital wards before and after a move to all-single room inpatient accommodation. We undertook a secondary analysis of 25 interviews with nursing staff (12 before and 13 after the move with half [13/25] using photographs taken by participants) from a mixed-method before-and-after study. This analysis focused on the sensory dimensions of nursing staff's experiences of their working practices and the effect of the built environment upon these. Drawing on Pallasmaa's theoretocal insights, we report how the all-single room ward design prioritises ‘focused vision’ and hinders peripheral perception, whilst the open ward environment is rich in contextual and preconscious information. We suggest all-single room accommodation may offer staff an impoverished experience of caring for patients and of working with each other.

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