Every aspect of University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital has been planned to enhance healing and best meet the needs of our patients and families. The paint colors and types of lights found in our new hospital are no exception.

Early on, patients and families were asked how the interior of the hospital should be designed.  “No white or beige walls” was a popular response. Families wanted an environment that was more welcoming.

Designers selected colors that are known to promote healing. All of the scenes selected reflect Iowa’s natural landscapes of farmlands, prairies, woodlands, rivers, and skies. After studying photographs of our state, designers picked paint colors that echo those found in nature and hues that would contribute to a calming and healing atmosphere.

Picking paint colors was just one aspect of interior design. Dozens of decisions had to be made about the best type of lighting to incorporate throughout the building. The lights not only need to look visually appealing but also need to be energy-efficient, require minimal maintenance, enhance healing, and boost workplace efficiencies.

Here are some of the interesting lighting features in our new hospital:

Patient Rooms

One feature affecting the brightness in each room isn’t a light at all. Instead, it’s a blackout shade that can be controlled by each family. The shade blocks light from entering rooms through the patient windows, promoting rest. A second shade allows some natural light to enter the room.

Drew’s Lamp: This custom lighting feature, inspired by a former patient, gives patients the ability to control this portion of their environment. It features seven lights; patients can determine which colors to display. Drew’s Lamp is located on the footwall in all patient rooms except those in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“Good night” lights: When patients choose to rest, a member of the care team can select the “good night” setting. This setting turns off lights in the patient zone and activates two small red lights. The red lights do not prevent patients from sleeping, but provide enough light for the care team to perform necessary tasks. The use of “good night” lights helps promote patient rest, enhancing healing.

Lights in the family zone: Each patient room includes a family zone with lights that can be controlled separately from lights in the patient and care team zones. The lights in the family zone allow family members to continue to work or read while the patient is resting. A privacy curtain helps restrict the amount of light that reaches the patient zone.

Surgical lights: Sometimes it’s necessary for doctors to perform in-room procedures. For this reason, equipment booms in rooms on Level 3 (Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) feature the same lights found in the pediatric operating rooms.


Elevator lobbies: Lights in elevator lobbies on each floor will match the color of that floor’s icon. For example, a green fox represents the PCICU and PICU, so lights in the elevator lobby on that floor will be green to aid wayfinding.

Unit clerk desk: A large version of the icon representing that level will appear on the front of each unit clerk’s desk. At night, the icons light up, aiding navigation and providing a fun distraction.

Care team stations: At night, blue uplights over each care team station on inpatient floors will be turned on. Blue lights have been shown to help keep people awake and alert.

Hallways: At night, lights in hallways on inpatient floors will be dimmer than they are during daytime hours. The change in brightness will enhance rest and serve as a visual reminder of quiet time.

Other Spaces

Lobby: The welcoming lobby includes large, distinctive globe lights. Recessed lighting helps highlight the “Blooming Wall,” the unique artwork on the interior walls of the Gerdin Family Lobby.

Entrance canopy: Three concentric rings of lights will provide needed light while creating a warm and distinctive look for the canopy over the entrance to the hospital.

Lower Level 2: Fiber-optic lights in the ceilings of rooms on Lower Level 2 will provide a distraction for patients undergoing imaging or other procedures.

Throughout Hospital

Light wells: Several light wells are located around the perimeter of the hospital. These vertical shafts, extending from Levels 3 to 11, let natural light into nearby spaces, including conference rooms. At night, the light wells will be illuminated with a number of different colors, including unique color combinations for holidays and special events.