By: Dr. Frank Lotrich
Hospital Medical Director – West Springs Hospital
Our goal is to operate the best psychiatric hospital – not just in Colorado – but in the Southwest and Mountain states. There are many details that go into making this goal a reality. One of those details involves light. A recent study by the Veterans Administration found that medical centers in sunnier, warmer, and drier climates have shorter lengths of stay. This is great news for the Western Slope. Grand Junction has all of these climate features. It is a perfect location to build a psychiatric hospital. Moreover, there have actually now been over a hundred scientific studies on the role of natural lighting in architectural design. And this science informed the design of the new hospital. Natural sunlight is associated with improvement in symptoms, less agitation, and short hospital days (ranging from 16-41% shorter). And patients are not the only ones who benefit. Nurses exposed to daylight experience less stress and are more satisfied at work. This benefit to staff translates into better patient care.
As the hospital goes up, you may notice the high ceilings and elevated window areas. This allows for natural lighting. The elevation also allows for privacy (light gets in, but personal privacy remains untouched). Where windows are employed at ground level, shatter proof material is used. Many staff members had an enjoyable afternoon this past summer attempting to break these windows (unsuccessfully I might add). Modern material science allows us to let light in, but maintains safety and security. What is less obvious when standing outside of the hospital are the internal courtyards. Patient areas have outdoor courtyards attached. These are designed with an east-west axis for optimal sun involvement. There are thus several more walls to let light in. Additionally, the dining area has an outdoor courtyard. And the gym area has an attached outdoor courtyard. Each of these outdoor spaces is integrated into the building; and this design keeps them safe, secure, and private. And even where we can’t have windows or courtyard access, we are employing bright and optimistic color palettes. This attention to lighting just one very small example of how the actually building itself is important contributor to health, happiness, and wellbeing.
Of course the real healing comes from a trained and committed staff who are attentive to roles of repeated trauma in most of our patients’ lives, who are guided by science and evidence in recommending treatment, and who value the individual dignity of each person. But the new and improved design features will make this job much easier. In the interest of self-empowerment, health, and safety, many choices have been made in constructing this new building. As the new hospital takes form, we hope to highlight (pun intended) many of these well-chosen features over the coming months.
We are truly grateful for the generosity, support and encouragement we have received for this vital project thus far, and with your help we know we can reach our fundraising goal.
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