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Reimagining the NICU brought together a group of healthcare professionals and students to find innovative ways to improve the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which provides intensive care for premature or ill newborns. After the first workshop, a second session was organized where three 'superteams' expanded on the insights of the initial session to create revised designs.

This lookbook showcases the work done by the workshop teams.


Reimagining Workshops’ purpose are to ensure that healthcare facilities are optimally designed. We propose updates to healthcare design guidelines and help push innovative ideas forward, one workshop at a time.


Click here for more information on our Reimagining Workshops

View insights by innovation type:


Patient Care Unit


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Additionally, videos of the teams explaining their designs can be found here:

  • YouTube

Engage with the Reimagining community:


Or learn more about the workshop process:


Three Workshop Insights

1. Neighborhood
Empathy Observations

During their interviews with clinicians and patient representatives, the neighborhood team identified a few common themes: 

  • The flexibility and adaptability of combinable rooms was helpful for all parties

  • Care teams often had concerns about noise and lack of a proper sight-line to the babies

  • Dedicated community and education spaces helped create a better experience for families


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Revised Design

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2. Patient Care Unit
Empathy Observations

During interviews with clinicians and patient representatives, multiple themes about the family care unit emerged: 

  • The rooms were simply uncomfortable, with too little space, no natural light and excess noise

  • The rooms were often rigidly designed and not flexible enough to accommodate families with different needs

  • The rooms were not able to shift as families’ needs changed throughout their stays

  • There was often a lack of privacy, but other times too much privacy led to feelings of isolation

  • There were often no accommodations for post-operative mothers


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Revised Design

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3. Technology
Empathy Observations

During their empathy work, the technology team identified multiple issues and areas of focus:

  • The NICU was often overwhelming at first and frequently made parents feel out of control

  • There were sometimes tradeoffs between patient care and family comfort

  • There was a need to balance isolation and socialization

  • Parents often wanted more help transitioning to home care


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Revised Design

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Ongoing Engagement

We're currently developing a community to foster continued engagement for the entire Reimagining community. If you're interested in collaborating with workshop participants on NICU design, contact us or email

In the meantime, make sure to look about for the next Reimagining Workshop here.

Human Centered
Design Process

At the core of Reimagining Workshops is the Human Centered design process, which participants use to structure their thinking.

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  • Empathize - understand people’s lived experiences by interviewing clinicians and NICU patient representatives


  • Define - identify specific problems to be solved based on empathy


  • Ideate - brainstorm ideas/solutions


  • Prototype - produce models of solutions to further explore


  • Test - gather feedback on the prototype from people who might use

How Might We...? Statements

After completing their empathy work, groups came up with “How Might We” statements to define the issues they would address, some of which are listed below.


  • How might we create opportunities to support both privacy and community in the NICU without negatively impacting the delivery of care?

  • How might we accommodate families as equal participants of the care team by respecting diversity and the need for privacy, while creating a sense of community?


  • How might we minimize the effects of post-intensive care syndrome and promote positive family dynamics and inclusion?


  • How might we accommodate evolving family and baby needs over the length of their stay to provide the best family-centered care?


  • How might we create flexibility/versatility in the NICU to address competing needs (e.g. privacy, connection, visibility, access)?


  • How might we create an individualized family centered approach from arrival to departure?

Workshop Process


After creating their How Might We...? statements, the groups created initial prototypes and gathered feedback by talking to past NICU family members and clinicians. They edited their designs based on the feedback to create the Prototypes shown in this lookbook.

After the initial workshop, a follow-up session was organized where teams created more robust designs based on the most salient insights of the first session.

A more detailed explanation of the Human Centered Design and Reimagining Workshop Processes can be found on the Workshops page.