Human Factors Support for Redesign of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit



Cincinnati Children’s Hospital developed and approved plans for a new neonatal intensive care unit. ARA consultation on the project helped identify a number of unmet needs based on understanding clinical practice and NICU team cognitive work.


The ARA team conducted a human factors assessment and evaluation of plans for redesign and build of a section of the CCHMC NICU (the ‘Interim Build’). Based on systematic data collection and analysis, we recommended a number of alterations to the design plan to optimize patient care and safety. We also identified potential technologies, communication practices, work processes, and staffing requirements to support the goals of the redesigned NICU. 

Workspace Design: The Cognitive Solutions Group has extensive experience applying human factors principles and applied cognitive research methods (e.g., Cognitive Systems Engineering, Cognitive Task Analysis) and models to design work spaces for the U.S. government and military, business and industry, and health care systems.  Our work in this arena has focused on a range of issues, including design or redesign of physical workspaces, information technology, staffing, work processes, and integration with other organizational components.   

Approach to Design:  Our approach to workspace design is grounded in human factors and cognitive systems engineering principles that simultaneously account for stakeholders’ goals for the design, the complex work to be conducted within the space, and the needs and requirements of those who work and interact within the space. Two major principles underlie our approach to design:

  • A systems perspective that recognizes and optimizes the interaction among people, technology, and workspaces.
  • A user-centered design based on an in-depth understanding of individual and team goals, needs, and requirements for doing their work.


Based on our insights, CCHMC made a number of changes to the physical design plan, in addition to implementing a number of staffing, technological, and work process changes to mitigate risk and enhance patient care in the NICU.

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Cognitive Solutions

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