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Using three spatial network measures of “space syntax”, this correlational study describes four interaction-related behaviors among three groups of users in relation to visibility and accessibility of spaces in four adult intensive care units (ICUs) of different size, geometry, and specialty. Systematic field observations of interaction-related behaviors show significant differences in spatial distribution of interaction-related behaviors in the ICUs. Despite differences in unit characteristics and interaction-related behaviors, the study finds that when nurses and physicians “interact while sitting” they prefer spaces that help maintain a high level of environmental awareness; that when nurses “walk” and “interact while walking” they avoid spaces with better global access and visibility; and that everyone in ICUs “walk” more in spaces with higher control over neighboring spaces. It is argued that such consistent behavioral patterns occur due to the structural similarities of spatial networks over and above the more general functional similarities of ICUs.




© 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.