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Caring for carers with quality rest areas

Female nurse sitting on the floor and looking distraught

Exhaustion, burnout and post-traumatic stress – just some of the impacts that working throughout a global pandemic has had on Canada’s nurses over the past 12 months.

May is National Nurses Month and it’s an ideal time for all of us to reflect on the dedication and sacrifice of the men and women who have, and continue to, put themselves on the line for the wellbeing of others.

The impact of Covid-19 on nursing staff will be felt for years to come, but right now is a great time for healthcare facilities to think about what they could do to better support nursing staff as we move forward out of this crisis.

Restorative rest areas

Rest environments are crucial for the mental and physical wellbeing of healthcare workers who often work demanding shift patterns and unsocial hours that affect their daily routines and family lives.  

The quality and design of rest areas can have a real impact on the ability of staff to recharge their batteries during a demanding day at work, whether that means simply getting a few minutes to relax with a hot cup of coffee, grab a hot shower, or even have a power nap.

Unfortunately, staff rest areas sometimes are at the bottom of the priority list for refurbishment since they’re rarely seen by the public.  Not only does it impact their overall wellbeing, poorly designed or sub-standard rest areas can also send a negative message to nurses and other healthcare workers about how much they are valued, resulting in low morale and high absenteeism.

So what makes a good rest area for nurses?

In order to really relax, healthcare workers need a rest area that meets their physical and psychological needs.  This means creating a space that is calming as well as offering privacy and security that enables staff to really switch off.  Here are some top tips to consider when designing or upgrading staff rest areas.

Relaxing aesthetics

Staff rest areas are a part of the clinical environment so it’s vital they are just as hygienic as the rest of the hospital in order to minimize the risk of cross infection.  But that doesn’t mean they have to look clinical!  Clever selection of materials and finishes for wall protection, handrail and work surfaces can help to create an aesthetic that mimics a luxury home or even hotel environment without compromising on cleanability.  Having a homey environment to escape to can help nurses and other health workers to get a better quality rest as well as sending a message that they are valued and their needs are being prioritized.  Selecting soft, soothing colours for wall finishes and textiles can also help to make rest spaces more calming and restful.


Staff rest areas should ideally be located away from public thoroughfares to minimize noise and disruption during break times – but this isn’t always possible.  Therefore, it’s important to ensure that windows and door viewing panels have adequate coverings to prevent people from seeing into the rest area.  

While staff generally welcome the opportunity to interact informally with colleagues in their rest breaks, it’s also important that they have opportunities for individual privacy.  Therefore, it’s vital that changing, showering and sleeping areas have appropriate privacy dividers, whether that’s solid surface cubicles or curtained areas, so that staff can fully relax.  Choosing full height, European-style toilet cubicles for washrooms creates a luxurious look and feel that also gives additional privacy for staff working long shifts.

Outdoor space

Research shows that when nursing staff have access to a private outdoor space, the restorative quality of their rest breaks is increased.  If it’s possible, staff should have access to an enclosed outdoor area such as a small balcony, courtyard or roof garden with seating and shelter so they can spend time outdoors without being observed by patients or passers-by.  If this isn’t possible, it’s worth relocating staff rest areas to rooms with good natural light, and adding biophilic elements such as potted plants into the interior scheme.


Having a safe and secure place to store personal effects is vital for all healthcare workers since they are moving around all day and unable to carry their belongings with them.  Generously sized lockers are an integral part of any break room or changing area and provide space to store clothing and footwear as well as practical items like phones and keys, and allows staff to relax and get on with their day in the knowledge that their things are safely stored away. 


One of the key aspects of rest area design is creating a distinction from patient care spaces that can help nursing staff to mentally ‘separate’ from their working mentality during rest breaks.  One way to help them do this is to offer opportunities for sensory relaxation in the rest area.  Features such as dimmable lighting, background music, massage chairs, or meditation areas can all help nursing staff to block out the frenetic demands of the hospital environment, if only for a short period of time, for a more restorative break that can help them to perform better when they’re back on the ward.

If your staff rest areas are in need of a refurb, or you’re planning a new construction project and you’d like to discuss the options, we’d be happy to help!  Belroc has expertise working in collaboration with architects and designers to make your vision an achievable reality.  Contact Dan Lawrenson to discuss your needs.