Source:  Contract  magazine, October 2011

Source: Contract magazine, October 2011

In healthcare environments, the patient always comes first. But caregivers' invaluable service will sometimes lead to their own injuries. Nurture by Steelcase sought to help remedy this through design, beginning with more than 2,000 hours of observing caregivers in action. This became the foundation for Empath, a recliner being launched at the Healthcare Design.11 conference in Nashville, November 13 to 16, that gives maximum consideration to patients and caregivers alike.
The Nurture team witnessed the caregivers straining their backs during bed-to-chair transfers and other motions required for operating recliners. At the same time, patients themselves would sometimes sustain hip bruising during the transfer. "The chair becomes an awkward obstacle causing clinical assistants to lean over while trying to help the patient have a soft landing," says Alan Rheault, Nurture's director of product design. "We also observed extreme reaching where the assistant balanced on one foot to prevent tubes from getting tangled or run over by the chair wheels."
To make a better and safer product for the staff user and patient, Nurture created a quality steel-construction product with all the bells and whistles. The most critical improvement is a central lock mechanism—activated from either side of the chair by foot—to prevent chair movement during transfer and eliminate bending for the caregiver. Optional folding arms for both sides allow for easy transfer of more immobile patients, and the brand's "I-skin" urethane soft-arm material reduces the chance of patient injury. Patients have better control of the angle at which they recline thanks to long and easy-to-reach reclining paddles located on both arm exteriors. And an optional push bar and pullout footrest facilitate moving the patient.
The chair also features an adjustable headrest, tablet surface, heat and massage options, an IV pole and drainage bag, quiet and smooth-rolling casters, and a Trendelenburg mechanism. But perhaps the crowning achievement is delivering all these in a compact and elegant package. Rheault comments, "Simple isn't easy. The chair in its final form looks so clean that the insights, invention, hard work, empathy, and passion behind the design will not be obvious to its users."