- Jul 16 2014
Robert Ulrich’s research pioneered a new way of thinking about patient care. His study “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery” was the first of its kind to provide quantitative evidence of the wellbeing benefits associated with a window view. By studying a massive amount of patient data, collected over a period of nearly 10 years, Ulrich documented the effects that simply viewing nature can have on healing.
Half of the post-operation patients in the study recovered in rooms with windows that overlooked naturescapes while the other half faced a brick wall. His research revealed that those facing trees, outdoor water elements and greenery experienced shorter hospital stays, were in overall better spirits and required less pain medication than the other patients.
Using the study results as a jumping off point, hospitals today go a step further and provide more than just window views, but gardens specifically designed for healing. In fact, 82 percent of directors and architects of assisted living residences agreed that the design of outdoor space should be one of the most important considerations.
As the population in hospitals varies quite a bit, gardens need to be designed to serve a variety of purposes. While some patients will use the open space to exercise after a surgery, others may simply need a quiet shady place to recuperate after a chemotherapy session before driving home. Ideally gardens will have areas for individuals and groups to sit in the shade or the sun, depending on individual situations.
While gardens are widely beneficial, certain criteria can be taken into account to maximize these benefits. Experts recommend that gardens feature varying types and heights of greenery and flowers that occupy 70 percent of the garden, while concrete walkways and other non-natural structures make up roughly 30 percent. Truly-healing gardens should also engage the senses, with plants to touch, flowers to smell and birds to hear.
Another key element is to ensure accessibility for everyone by incorporating wide walkways for patients in wheelchairs, safe and maintained footpaths to minimize injury as well as easy to open gates for frail or elderly patients.
While patient recovery is a top priority, the benefits of these gardens are far reaching. A study conducted for the Center for Health Design revealed that hospital employees visited gardens just as often as patients to de-stress. Employees who work in closed-in areas such as departments located in hospital basements considered time spent outdoors as mentally and emotionally uplifting.
What was your outdoor experience like the last time you visited a hospital?
While gardens are a common feature in most modern hospitals, the journey to valorizing landscape design in healthcare facilities began 30 years ago with the groundbreaking research of Professor Roger Ulrich. Today we reflect back on his study and see how far we’ve come.
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