A U.S. Department of Energy-funded Pacific Northwest Energy Laboratory (PNNL) study found that hospital nurses value controllability in lighting and that this controllability can translate to greater satisfaction among patients.
Lighting accounts for more than 40% of hospital electricity use, making it a prime target for energy savings among building operators and policy makers. The challenge is saving energy in an environment where lighting is so critical for staff performance, safety, and occupant satisfaction.
One answer to this challenge is flexibility. By zoning lighting in patient rooms and giving nurses more control over light levels and spectrum with appropriate controls, hospitals have an opportunity to promote performance and satisfaction while generating substantial energy savings. As hospitals shift to LED lighting, they will have the ability to incorporate fine control of light levels, spectrum, and light distribution, which can provide value that goes far beyond energy savings.
Collaborating with McCunn & Associates Consulting, PNNL initiated its study in 2015 to explore how patient-room lighting systems could be improved. Part of the study was a series of surveys, with nurses selected as respondents as they spend a significant time in patient rooms and are intimately involved in patient care. The resulting information is intended to inform decisions by designers and future lighting investments by facility managers that take nurses’ perspectives into account. Articles summarizing the results were published in HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal in 2020.
The researchers surveyed 138 nurses working in medical/surgical patient rooms at four hospitals in the United States. Patient rooms in three of these hospitals used traditional lighting systems featuring a few luminaires controlled by a simple ON/OFF switch. One used a more contemporary system involving separately zoned luminaires in each room controlled by ON/OFF switches and with supplemental lighting for nighttime circulation. All used fluorescent lighting with no dimming capability.
The nurses participating in the study were asked rating and open-ended questions about their perceptions of their lighting as it related to performing their duties, as well as what they saw as patients’ perceptions of room lighting. A systematic qualitative method was applied to identify key themes among the open-ended responses.
Respondents working with the contemporary system regarded their lighting more favorably than nurses working with the traditional design approach. In particular, they were far more satisfied with their ability to control their lighting, due to the zoning; control of light was rated as one of the most important lighting system attributes.
Despite greater satisfaction with controllability with the contemporary design approach, nurses at all four hospitals said the most frequent patient complaints were the lights were too bright and that they kept the patients awake. Controllability therefore emerged as an attribute considered among the “best” by respondents while also one that could be further refined for staff and patient satisfaction. One key improvement cited by nurses was to give patients ability to control their light levels using dimming and additional light sources.
“Our work suggests that facilities managers and designers must continue to innovate with respect to offering more control over unit lighting environments to both patients and staff, allowing them to adjust light fixtures and, perhaps, increase the number and type of overhead and task lighting fixtures in patient rooms,” the study authors concluded, noting that providing better ability to control light levels may reduce the need for supplemental lighting.
The authors added, “Today’s LED lighting systems for patient rooms provide opportunities to control the intensity and the spectrum of lighting in ways that were either not possible, or that added significant cost, with fluorescent lighting used in traditional (and some contemporary) systems. The ability of newer systems to adjust the spectrum of white light, and introduce colored light, provides further opportunities for patient room lighting to support a holistic set of patient and staff needs—these opportunities were not available from the lighting systems included in this study. As we learn more about the benefits that these new features afford, healthcare designers, planners, and administrators alike can explore new opportunities to improve the patient room environment through innovative lighting approaches.”
Click here to check out the PNNL report.