Hospitals are large, complex institutions with often confusing layouts. Hospital signage is crucial to help staff, patients, visitors, contractors and delivery companies find the right locations.
It can also ensure that health and safety requirements are complied with and can even make the hospital more welcoming to those who are worried and anxious. Using signage to achieve all these things requires detailed planning and here, we’ll look at six key considerations needed when purchasing hospital signage.
- Assuring people they have arrived
When assessing the signage needs of your hospital, you need to begin outside. Hospitals have a lot of people going to them, aside from staff and patients, there are always lots of visitors and delivery vehicles. Everyone will need to know they have come to the right place, especially if there is more than one hospital in the town.
An exterior sign displaying the name of the hospital is essential and this will need to be clearly seen by traffic on the nearby roads. In some circumstances, multiple exterior signs may be needed and if the hospital is set back from the roadside, freestanding signs might need to be located near to the site’s entrance.
As hospitals are open 24 hours a day, external signs should be illuminated to ensure they can be seen during the night.
- Getting to the right building or entrance
While knowing they have arrived at the right site can put anxious patients at ease, there’s the added complexity that hospitals are usually made up of different buildings, some of which can be on different sites, and which often have their own car parks, entrances and delivery depots. Even in single-building facilities, there are usually multiple entry points, such as the main entrance, A&E and outpatients, etc.
So, in addition to large signs that name the hospital, individual buildings and entrances will need external signage that informs people what part of the hospital they are at. On top of this, external wayfinding signs can point people in the right direction in what can be a confusing and potentially disorientating environment.
- Helping people find their way around
Once inside, hospitals can be exceptionally difficult to navigate. With a plethora of corridors, all of which look vaguely similar to newcomers, it can be very confusing to know where you are or how to get to where you are going. This is made even more complex in multi-storey buildings where all the floors have the same or similar layout.
In highly complex internal environments such as these, wayfinding signage is absolutely essential. However, for it to be effective, it needs to be carefully considered and planned. Signs need to be installed in the right places, provide the right information, make effective use of colour coding and be easy to follow. There also needs to be consistency in how they are used. In addition to signs, the use of ‘You are here’ diagrams and colour coded floor or wall trails (e.g., follow the blue line) can also be useful in heavy traffic areas.
- Catering for different needs
Perhaps more than any other type of building, hospitals will need to ensure their signage system caters for a range of individual needs. Not all patients or visitors will have English as a first language, for instance, and this means there may be a need to use multiple languages on some signs or use universal symbols to help people. This is particularly important when considering the use of medical terminology on signage where even people with a very good grasp of English can get confused. Why send people to the phlebotomy department when it makes much more sense to patients to call it the blood test department?
Aside from literacy issues, other considerations include catering for those who are blind or who have limited vision. This means Braille signage may need to be added to the mix.
- Making people feel comfortable
People can feel very anxious when entering a hospital and a lot of effort goes into making them feel less clinical and more welcoming for patients and their visitors. Shops and cafés can give an air of normality while displaying artwork on the walls can make them feel a little more homely.
Signage, too, has a role to play in creating an atmosphere that puts people at ease. Replacing a bland welcome sign in the children’s ward with one which uses colourful images and friendlier fonts can make a nervous child (and their equally concerned parents) much less frightened when entering the ward. The use of window graphics can also be used to brighten up reception areas, wards, clinics and corridors.
- Meeting legal obligations
As hospitals are both a public building and a place of work, this means health and safety signage is needed to comply with legal requirements. Signs are needed for such things as emergency exits, fire extinguishers, the disposal of medical waste, radiation warnings and much more.
Before installing health and safety signs, it is recommended that an audit is undertaken to ensure that managers have a detailed and comprehensive overview of what signs are required and where. You will then need to determine the most effective way to display them and ensure that other signs in the vicinity do not distract people’s attention away from them.
Hospitals are hugely important public buildings that are frequently busy and where there are lots of people who may be unfamiliar not only with the facility’s layout but with the local area in which it is located. Signage is crucial to help people, including those with additional needs, get to where they need to be as easily as possible. At the same time, signage is needed to meet health and safety regulations and can be helpful in creating a more welcoming atmosphere.
If you need help putting together a comprehensive hospital signage system or need to make additions to your existing signage visit our Healthcare Signage page.