NICU simulation lab and lighting – part 2

October 22, 2015

NICU Simulation Lab and Lighting Part 2

Findings from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Simulation Lab created by the Institute for Patient Centered Design

In Part 1 of our NICU Simulation Lab and Lighting series, we talked about the importance of Natural Cycled Lighting and Kangaroo Care for neonates. In this post, we will focus on the effects of artwork, windows and light glare in healthcare settings.

Providing views of nature and the effects of Reflections, Glare and Heat:

Access to daylight and views to nature are not only important but according to FGI Guidelines are mandatory in healthcare settings. There must be accessible daylight for patients, families and staff. Providing views of nature can help relax, motivate and heal patients. However, reflections, glare and heat gain from windows should be considered when designing.

Glare from lighting may be uncomfortable to an adult but to a baby it can be harmful. A neonates eyelids, specifically when premature, are much thinner and are still developing. Special attention to glare and high light levels from natural and artificial lighting needs to be considered. Indirect, diffused light sources should be used when possible. Lighting that can be easily dimmed or integrated with automatic controls or time clocks should be used in a NICU setting with override controls for transillumination. Finishes that reflect glare easily or light, bright surfaces should also be handled with care.


Research tells us that artwork in a healthcare setting has calming effects. Whether it’s trees in the wind, a canopy overhead with sunlight coming through or soft landscapes, it can help comfort not only a patient but staff and family as well. We do however associate certain images to a time in our lives which could be pleasant or tragic depending on the circumstances. Because of this, abstract work that doesn’t depict a time, gender, culture or age, can be even more beneficial in a healthcare setting.

For the last few years Visa Lighting has been working with the artist, Vara Kamin. Her work has shown that soft, soothing colors and non-representational images can provide a visual distraction or comfort in a healthcare setting. In the NICU simulation lab, we used artwork as a backlit feature in the hallway adjacent to the family area. Family members as well as staff who walk through the hallway are all greeted by a beautifully lit piece of artwork the instant they walk through the NICU pod. The idea is that the family and staff can enter into the space feeling more calm and possibly even happier in what would otherwise be a very stressful environment.

Look for NICU (Part 3) where we will talk about examination and task lighting, as well as the cleanability factor.

For more information visit The Institute for Patient Centered Design

Photos provided by and Visa Lighting