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All aboard for health care access
Rail car designs for rural health services
Monday, Feb. 20, 2012
By Becki Meehan, WSU Spokane
This slideshow features the two concept options. Each illustrates a different approach to the flow and layout of the space. Both concepts address circulation and the patient experience while taking into account the multifunctionality and efficiency needed to make the space work.
SPOKANE, Wash. - Access to cost effective health care in rural Washington is a serious concern. Bob Scarfo, associate professor at the Washington State University Interdisciplinary Design Institute, addressed the problem with a unique assignment to students.
"The idea was to redesign a rail car that will be transported to rural communities and left for periods of time to accommodate the medical and dental needs of residents in those communities," said Scarfo. "The rail car was considered to address the issue of reducing costs and time required when driving to an urban health center."
Community feedback integrated
Knowing the interdisciplinary nature of the project, the students enlisted the expertise and guidance of faculty from the Eastern Washington University dental hygiene program and the WSU College of Nursing. They relied on feedback from rural community members to get a better picture of the wellness resources those communities need.
Senior interior design students Polina Brutskaya, Chloe Buerstatte, Courtney Dohnal, Kelly Escue, Julie Hoffman, Cora Houser and Emily Joralemon tackled the redesign as part of their fall design studio. They used a Pullman railroad car as their model.
Upon completing their research, the student team introduced URIKA the Health Train. Given the rail car's area of service and its focus, the Native American name URIKA was chosen because of its meaning, "useful to all."
"URIKA is about providing regular preventive care and maintenance - it's not a replacement for hospitals or emergency service," said Dohnal. "Because of health insurance issues and availability of services, people aren't going in for preventive care. URIKA could provide these services and health education on a regular basis."
Multifunctional, efficient spaces
The team took many things into consideration in designing two rail car concepts. They made sure the clinic could accommodate the high-tech equipment and infrastructure needed to support medical and dental services. The use of natural lighting throughout addressed the narrow dimensions of the space, providing a more open, welcoming environment.
Solar panels were used to incorporate sustainability. The students maximized every inch of the train to provide the necessities to run the facility, without overlooking the need for comfort and privacy for patients and families.
Option A includes bump-outs similar to those seen on mobile homes and has separate medical and dental areas and a separate space for staff. Option B groups the medical and dental work areas together but includes a separate entrance and exit for dental and medical visits. It includes a multifunctional waiting space that can transform into a conference room and sleeping space for staff.
Healthier citizens, communities
If implemented, URIKA could make preventive health care with educational resources more of a reality in rural areas. This would help foster healthy citizens who are able to better support themselves and their communities.
"This project was really unique and interesting and provided us with a lot of challenges," said Buerstatte. "We're really proud of what we put together."