Walk a Mile in My Shoes

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

Most of us don’t think much about it. Having a job where you sit most of the time makes you oblivious to the number of steps it takes to do things. I often get irritated when I have to walk from my cozy ergonomic desk chair to the printer to pick up one of my masterpieces. How many steps? Well, it seems like a mile, but it might be twenty paces – three or four times a day. What a travesty!

Now, think about how you might feel if your job did not give you much time to sit down? Eight hours a day you are on your feet walking or standing and doing your job. We have to think about this when we plan spaces. Our job is to figure out the most efficient way for people to do their jobs with minimal impact on them and their production.

Healthcare design is really a great example. Think about the typical physician’s office. Depending upon the size of the practice the distance from the waiting room to the exam room might vary. Think about who you have moving about – the patient, the nurse and the doctor. Think about the cost of a minute of their time. The Doctor might cost between $1.50 and $3.00 per minute (depending upon specialty). The Nurse might only cost fifty cents a minute. The patient? Well, remember he pays the Physician to see him – no cost.

So, when designing the medical office we really want to set it up so that the most costly person (the Physician) has to travel the least to get their job done. The Nurse can travel more to support the Physician and make them more efficient. The Patient can do all the walking.

This is why you will see the exam rooms clustered around the Physician office and the nurse station nearby. The waiting room can be next to that or way down the hall if there are several of these pods.

The less the Physician has to walk, the more people he can see and he will not be worn out at the end of the day from just walking.

Looking at it that way, I will try to be less peeved when I have to make that trek to the printer three times a day, although I probably need to be doing more of that just for my health.