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LRC News

Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Lighting for NICUs Improves

By Jennifer Taylor

Lighting for NICUs
New recommended standards for NICUs are designed to benefit newborns, families, and medical staff.

One of the biggest transformations in American health care in recent years is the way hospitals and medical facilities are designed. New floor plans, equipment, and improved technologies are taking advantage of new research and meeting the changing expectations of patients. Changes to the lighting of these facilities are no exception.

In the past year, new recommended standards for the design of newborn intensive care units (NICUs) have been developed, encompassing the entire interior of the NICU. These recommended standards include guides for ambient lighting and procedure lighting in the infant care areas, illumination for support areas, daylighting, and issues related to reflective floor surfaces.

The Lighting Research Center lent its expertise in the development of these guidelines during the Sixth Census Conference on Newborn ICU Design, held at the beginning of 2006.

Charting new lighting territory
LRC Director Mark Rea, Ph.D., who served on the committee to establish the recommended standards, said that the guidelines not only promote the best possible lighting for this environment, but they also chart new territory by considering recent developments in lighting technologies and research in the field of light and health.

“The new recommendations consider recent scientific evidence about the profound effect that light has on human health and have been designed to help medical staff working on the night-shift or who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder,” Rea said. These considerations are found in a new recommendation to include an area where staff can receive 15 minutes of high-intensity white light or lower-intensity blue light.

The recommendations also include new measures and requirements for color rendering, further clarification on ambient lighting criteria, and changes in floor surface material.

LRC researchers published a paper in the Journal of Perinatology discussing the new NICU lighting recommendations, why they were selected, and how they can be applied accurately.

Purpose of recommendations
The purpose of the consensus committee and its recommendations is to complement existing documents on NICU design by providing health care professionals, architects, interior designers, state health care facility regulators, and others involved in the planning of NICUs with a comprehensive set of standards based on clinical experience and an evolving scientific database. Recent LRC graduate Ken Appleman served on the International Advisory Committee, which provided input during the consensus process.

Robert D. White, M.D., committee chairman and director of the regional newborn program at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind., says no national standard exists for what constitutes a NICU. Formal planning guidelines for NICUs were first set forth 30 years ago and have continued to evolve since.

“It is our hope that these recommendations will continue to provide the basis for a consistent set of standards that can be used by all states and endorsed by appropriate national organizations, and that they will also continue to be useful in the international arena,” Dr. White said.

He noted that while many of the standards are minimums, the intent is to optimize design within the constraints of available resources. “This will help facilitate excellent health care for the infant in a setting that supports the central role of the family and the needs of the staff.”

White added that these standards have now been disseminated to more than 25 countries and several hundred NICUs, architectural firms, state planning agencies, and medical professionals.

For more information
A link to the abstract of the LRC’s paper “A discussion of recommended standards for lighting in the newborn intensive care unit,” published in the October 2006 issue of Journal of Perinatology by Mariana Figueiro, Ken Appleman, John Bullough, and Mark Rea, can be found on the LRC Light and Health Web site (http://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/lightHealth).

To learn more about the recommended standards for NICU lighting, visit the “Recommended Standards for Newborn ICU Design” Web site at http://www.nd.edu/~nicudes/index.html.

About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, N.Y., and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. The LRC offers the world's premier graduate education in lighting, including one- and two-year master's programs and a Ph.D. program. Since 1988 the LRC has built an international reputation as a reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. The LRC also provides training programs for government agencies, utilities, contractors, lighting designers, and other lighting professionals. Visit www.lrc.rpi.edu.

Contact:lrcnewsletter@rpi.eduPhotos & Graphics:Dennis Guyon
Editor:Keith ToomeyWeb Production:Joann Coffey
Contributing Writers:Jennifer Taylor, Keith Toomey
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