Waiting Room

Any health center, dentist’s surgery or doctor’s office will need a reception area and a waiting room where patients can be comfortable until the doctor is available to see them. Here are five of the major considerations you should take into account when designing your waiting room.


The ambiance is the feel of the room and all the decor will add into this. You need to create an atmosphere where patients feel welcomed. Too many people fear going to a dentist or hate visiting the medical center anyway, and then find the experience worse, because the surroundings they find themselves in are dingy and depressing.

To create a welcoming ambiance in your waiting room, ensure there is plenty of natural light. If artificial light is the only option, choose a variety of lighting options. While many people opt for long fluorescent lights in bars across the roof, this provides a sterile environment. If you’re waiting room looks like a hospital it will be daunting for patients. Try other options to soften the effects of harsh lighting, including lamps and downlights.

Flowers at the reception desk can add to the welcoming ambiance. Some medical practitioners are finding that having a small water fountain can add the right ambiance, because flowing water is naturally soothing. Soft music in the background can suggest a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

Rugs or small carpets can add to a friendlier atmosphere, especially if the floor of the waiting room is tiled or wooden.


Patient comfort is important. Choose the furniture for the waiting room with an eye for comfort. The furniture should all match, as a hedge-lodge of odd pieces shows that the doctor or dentist is just cheap and does not care for his patients.

At the least, provide cushions on straight-backed chairs, to add comfort and a more home-like ambiance. If patients are waiting a long time, uncomfortable chairs which hurt their backs will add a grievance to the wait.

Many patients do not like waiting close to other patients, and you should consider having several separate seats, rather than one long lounge, so there can be a degree of separation between patients. This is especially important for a health center, where some patients may be coming in with infectious diseases such as influenza.


Provide a selection of popular magazines and daily newspapers for your patients to read. Some practices like to offer television as well for the entertainment of waiting patients. A flat-screen television can be easily situated on a wall and not take up too much space in the waiting room.

If your practice is one where children are likely to be patients, ensure there is a quiet corner of the waiting room that has appropriate toys and books for children.

A table and chair set designed for children is always a good idea. Have a few adult chairs close to this area, so parents can watch their children play. Try to keep a distance between some of the chairs, so that those patients without children do not have to be distracted by the children.

Professional Look

Dentists, doctors and health professionals must always present a professional appearance. Patients need to trust you with their health.

Building trust with patients starts at the front door of your practice. Make sure it is easy to locate your practice, especially if it is in a large medical center or office complex, where there are many doors. Put professional signage on the door to ensure your patients know where you are and what your opening hours are.

The reception area should be clearly seen as soon as someone walks into the practice. Ensure there is sufficient space between furniture, especially when other patients are sitting there, so the patient can approach the reception desk without tripping over other patients.

Patient privacy and confidentiality are important. If your practice is large enough to need to receptionists, ensure there is a degree of separation between them, so patients cannot overhear what is being said to other patients.

Have chairs placed further away from the reception desk for ease of movement and to maintain confidentiality. Ensure chairs are not too close to the door of the surgery room, so that waiting patients cannot hear what is being said to the patient being attended to.

Number of Patients

Consider the number of patients you are likely to have in the waiting room at one time. A large health center, with many doctors, will need more chairs than a private practice with only one doctor.

Encourage patients to make appointments and therefore reduce waiting time for every patient.

Most patients would prefer to have at least one chair between themselves and the next patient, so plan for more seating than you think you will need.

Ensure the chairs are not too close together that patients will need to step over other patients’ feet or legs to get in or out of the chairs.