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From 2016-2018, researchers in the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) are teaming up with the Bendigo Hospital Project public-private-partnership (PPP) consortium, Exemplar Health, and the Bendigo Health Care Group to investigate what a hospital building and its designed forms feel like from the standpoint of those who use it most. With funding of $120k from Exemplar Health, the ‘Design for Wellbeing’ research project will produce new knowledge about hospital design and the experience of those who visit, work and receive care and services in these environments.

The three-year research project is set in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia at the Bendigo Hospital, both existing and new. As the largest regional hospital development in Victoria’s history and one of the largest hospital projects across Australia, this new hospital will open in early 2017.

For Bendigo Health’s Psychiatric Services, the move to the new hospital means the co-location of four distinct inpatient units and almost doubling the amount of hospital beds. The study focuses on the psychiatry facilities before and after this major change, with researchers spending time on the ward during two intensive periods in mid-2016 (patients experiencing the old facility, before relocating to the new) and early 2018 (12 months after the transfer to the new hospital building is complete).

A key feature of this research at the new Bendigo Hospital is the use of ethnography to focus on how people experience, understand and make sense of their surroundings. This technique will see the researcher team interview patients, visitors and staff, who are the people that use the space most. Researchers will observe the distinctive patterns, routines and rhythms of use across the hospital-based psychiatry precinct. This approach requires the researchers to closely engage with participants, to create new insights into how hospital design, and changes to it, can produce different feelings and sensations.  

The project investigates the built environment. It examines how the different designs of the old and new hospital buildings are experienced by staff and patients as sensory, emotional and social spaces. It also explores how staff and patients experience and participate with the delivery and use of services in the existing and new hospital contexts. Ethnography is particularly suitable for this project because of its flexibility and responsiveness. It allows research participants to share their experiences and insights, and to create new knowledge with DERC’s expert researchers.  


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