Good design addressed needs, and in healthcare—where patients, nurses, doctors, and support staff are all interacting in one environment—there are a lot of people with a lot of different needs. Gary Cruce, design principle at Nemschoff, understands this and the award-winning Oasis overbed table is a result.
Gary and I recently had an opportunity to talk about the design of Oasis.
What are some of the issues relating to overbed tables?
There are a lot of different people competing for the same small space on an overbed table. For patients, it is often the only place they can reach and store things while sitting in bed. Nurses use part of the table for setup and prep when they are in the room. And then, threes times a day it’s cleared to hold a food tray.
Research was a part of the project early on, and we worked closely with Kerrie Cardon, a nurse consultant with Herman Miller Healthcare. A photo survey she put together, for example, really helped us understand all of the ways [an overbed table] was being used.
How did this understanding translate into the design of Oasis?
We started by creating a top with a low-walled space at one end to better organize items, but without being too prescriptive and creating cup holders and niches for specific items. It’s easy to move things there when the nurse is working or the food tray arrives. On the column you sometimes find a box of some kind; we designed a small tray instead, which we left open for easy access and visibility. We added tall edges to the tray to keep things from falling off.
Our research showed that overbed tables are often pushed off to the side of the bed, so they’re running parallel to it, which makes it almost impossible for a patient in bed to reach the it. To address this, we added another storage space that floated above the main surface, allowing the patient to easily reach it.
We also spent a lot of time thinking about infection control and cleanability—two important issues in healthcare. The surfaces were designed to come together at a radius, which makes it easy for staff to clean.
The last thing we did was develop a really nice mechanism that allows the table to smoothly and easily move up and down.
Have you had any personal experiences that has informed your healthcare design?
No, I’ve actually been pretty lucky. That’s the irony of our products; we hope that you don’t have much contact with them.A lot of my experience has come from research and working on Nemschoff and Herman Miller Healthcare products.
What is the hardest part of designing healthcare furniture?
The hardest part is balancing all of the different needs of people who interact with a product. There are a lot of subtle things we consider—you appreciate healthcare furniture a lot more when you recognize these.