Caring For the Caregivers: New Research Shows That Better Lighting Means Happier Nurses

November 16, 2016 Acuity News

Nurses perform a number of critical tasks, day and night, in dynamic and unpredictable care environments. Lighting clearly has an impact on nurses’ ability to perform these tasks. Current research on lighting and patient care focuses on nighttime lighting issues, including:

  • Disruption to nurses’ circadian rhythms and the need to maintain alertness throughout the night shift; nurses experience circadian phase disruptions during night shifts because the timing of their sleep-wake schedule and work schedule is out of phase with the natural light/dark cycle.
  • Light and dark adaptation, as nurses often enter a darkened patient’s room from a brightly lit corridor.
  • Color fidelity; accurate color rendering of skin and tissue during examinations and procedures, which often occur at patient bedside.

Surprisingly, limited research has been done to understand nurses’ impressions of lighting, and what type of lighting they need to be more effective on the job. To shine new light on the issue, our Karen Gayle, Vice President of Healthcare collaborated with SimTigrate Design Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology on a research project to understand nurses’ perceptions about lighting in inpatient medical-surgical hospital units.

The research was first published in HERD: Health Environments Research & Design. Journal, April 2016; (note content is subscription-based.) LD+A Magazine also recently featured a great article summarizing the research, authored by Karen and her research colleagues at SimTigrate, Jennifer Dubose and Khatereh Hadi.

The study sought to understand the types of lighting features nurses would need to improve job performance, as well as understanding which spaces mattered the most to them and their level of satisfaction with the lighting in their current nursing unit. Key findings included:

  • Decentralized nursing stations (DNS) and patient bedside (PBS) were deemed to be the most problematic spaces for lighting. In both settings the majority of nurses characterized their light levels as “too little” (43.3 percent of respondents) or “too much” (18.4 percent).
  • The diversity of nursing tasks being performed over the course of a 24-hour day in hospital environments is vast, so nurses wanted greater flexibility to tailor lighting to their specific needs; in particular, they wanted control over lighting intensity and distribution.

The article advises that for older buildings, incorporating dimming controls is impossible or cost-prohibitive. However, for facilities that are currently being designed or pursuing partial relight or full renovation, there is no shortage of control options for today’s digital solid-state lighting sources. It goes on to state that when incorporating lighting controls for healthcare, it is helpful to design with three principles in mind: simplicity, flexibility and automation.


To learn more about the study visit the Acuity Brands Lighting Solutions for Healthcare page.

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