Support for the supporters: rethinking SSM Health St. Agnes Hospital’s waiting room experience

Support from family and friends is crucial to the healing process of patients, making healing spaces for families equally important. In making deliberate space for visitors and family members it encourages their presence and contributes to a feeling of inclusion in their loved one’s care. It’s a place to find emotional respite, gather themselves, regroup, and return to continue to provide that crucial support.

The construction of a new cardiac catheterization lab prompted SSM Health to approach Zimmerman for help in renovating their existing St. Agnes Hospital waiting space to support the increased volumes of the cardiac procedure rooms and Intensive Care Unit. Having a loved one receiving this type of care can be a very nerve-wracking experience. The existing waiting area lacked privacy; the space was open to the corridor. The hospital asked Zimmerman to create supportive and comfortable waiting space to support these departments.

To address this need, the hospital opted for a unique approach. Rather than a single, shared waiting room, our design solution implements five small, semi-private waiting rooms to create separation between families and the privacy needed for moments of respite. Visitors have the option to step out of the patient’s room if they need a moment to compose themselves emotionally. They can also have private consultations with doctors to discuss the status and next steps of their loved one’s care. The proximity to the ICU and cardiac catheterization lab allows for a direct line of communication with family members, which in turn can help reduce stress.

The divided waiting rooms can accommodate several visitors. The rooms are fully equipped with home-like amenities such as comfortable seating, a television, convenient outlets, and a small dining table with chairs. Lowering the ceilings and using semi-transparent dividers instead of doors were deliberate design choices to maintain a comfortable and accessible atmosphere, avoiding potential feelings of isolation for families.

Biophilic elements are implemented in the design using natural wood in the furnishings. The patterned glass panels in the partitions represent the movement of water and add a touch of tranquility to the space. The soffit above also has a gentle curve. Adjacent windows provide immediate access to daylight furthering the biophilic connection.

The demand for these waiting room spaces has proven to be high. According to the surgery and nursing staff, the waiting rooms are almost always filled. Families and visitors are grateful to have space where they can go for respite and connection.


Fond du Lac, WI


15,645 Sq. Ft.

Services Provided:

Architectural Space Planning, Architectural Planning and Design, Structural Analysis, Structural Engineering, Interior Design

Bailey Abbott

Architectural Technician

Paul Richter

Senior Associate | Project Manager