Students’ designs aim to help hospital privacy

Otago Polytechnic product design students (clockwise, from bottom) Elle Chotiwanich (22), Rosie...
Otago Polytechnic product design students (clockwise, from bottom) Elle Chotiwanich (22), Rosie Graham (22) and George Goodger (20) with their sound booth design which they hope will allow hospital staff to have sensitive conversations in private at the new Dunedin hospital. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Hushed "cloak and scalpel" conversations in a dark, unpopulated corner of a staff cafeteria may soon become a thing of the past for medical practitioners.

Otago Polytechnic product design students have been working on the quiet — quite literally — to design places for the new Dunedin hospital where staff can have sensitive conversations in private.

The new hospital design is expected to provide open-plan work spaces and will include quiet booths, casual seating areas, meeting rooms and mini kitchenettes, enabling staff to work in more collaborative ways.

But with open-plan working comes challenges — including finding somewhere to have a private conversation when meeting rooms are booked.

To help solve this issue, Otago Polytechnic students have designed "flexible focus environments" — freestanding, private, noise-reducing pods that staff can use for activities such as telehealth calls with patients.

School of Design senior lecturer Andrew Wallace said the students researched the project in teams, created cardboard mock-ups and presented their prototypes to the new Dunedin hospital project team.

"There has been a clear design vision to use non-toxic organic materials such as clay, wool, cardboard and other organic materials to reduce sound within

the rooms," he said.

"There has also been a focus on disassembly and disposal at end of life."

Otago Polytechnic product design head Machiko Niimi said the project provided a great opportunity for third-year students to work on a real-life problem for real clients.

"This helps us replicate a real-life design studio experience in a safe learning environment, and builds important foundations for our students to be work-ready.

"The district health board staff were supportive of the human-centred design approach used in our curriculum.

"For example, students were invited to an interview session with doctors and administration staff to hear their first-hand experiences and everyday realities to understand their needs.

"Designing with real users in mind is key to designing a meaningful outcome."

Hospital rebuild project director Bridget Dickson said the students had come up with inspiring designs.

"Some of the designs are modular and can be joined together to create bigger spaces.

"Some, such as the design with the grass elements, have been inspired by the natural environment, and some can be configured for multiple uses.

"It’s heartening to see such skilful, sustainability-focused and imaginative work from the designers of the future."


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