Key Spatial Factors Influencing the Perceived Privacy in Nursing Units: An Exploration Study With Eight Nursing Units in Hong Kong

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This study examined how the spatial characteristics of patient beds, which are influenced by patient room design and nursing unit configuration, affect patients’ perceptions about privacy.


In the hospital setting, most patients expect a certain degree of privacy but also understand that their caregivers need appropriate access to them in order to provide high-quality care. Even veteran healthcare designers may struggle to create just the right balance between privacy and accessibility.


A paper-based survey was conducted with 159 participants in Hong Kong—72 (45.3%) participants had been hospitalized and 87 (54.7%) participants had not—to document their selection of high-privacy beds, given simplified plans of eight nursing units. Two types of information, comprised of six variables, were examined for each bed. These include (1) room-level variables, specifically the number of beds per room and area per bed and (2) relational variables, including walking distance, directional change, integration, and control.


The results demonstrate that when asked to identify high-privacy beds, participants selected beds in patient rooms with fewer beds per room, a larger area per bed, and a longer walking distance to the care team workstation. Interestingly, the participants having been hospitalized also chose beds with a visual connection to the care team workstation as being high in privacy.


The participants with hospitalization experience may be willing to accept a bed with reduced visual privacy, perhaps out of a concern for safety.

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