Study: Greenspaces in Hospitals Reduce Patient, Provider, Visitor Stress

Introducing nature can help humanize the institutional environment help improve individuals with spatial orientation and navigation, results of analysis show.

Introducing nature into large hospitals can humanize the institutional environment and help reduce the stress of health care providers, patients, and visitors, according to the results of a study conducted by investigators at West Virginia University (WVU).

Shan Jiang, an associate professor at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design at WVU, digitally created environments that could be used as a controlled experiment to see if participants could complete various wayfinding tasks.

Study participants saw the same hospital layout and room arrangement. However, 1 group also saw large windows with nature views along the walls. The other group were shown only solid walls without nature views or any daylight.

Jiang found that individuals in the greenspace group walked a shorter distance and took less time to complete wayfinding tasks.

"In terms of spatial orientation and wayfinding, window views of nature and small gardens can effectively break down the tedious interiors of large hospital blocks and serve as landmarks to aid people's wayfinding and improve their spatial experience," she said in a statement.

The study results also showed that individuals in the greenspace group demonstrated less anger and confusion.

The findings of this study were published in the Health Environment Research and Design Journal.

Based on the findings of previous research, it is estimated that individuals must go through at least 7 steps before arriving at their final designation, which could be an environmental stressor for individuals.

"Large hospitals can be visually welcoming but the functionality and internal circulation are indeed complex and confusing," Jiang said.

Jiang said that the study was prompted by her own experiences, as well as the experiences of family members and others

The study results also showed that greenspaces that were strategically placed, such as the main corridor or junction of departmental units, could serve as landmarks that positively attract attention, aiding in wayfinding and improving navigation.

Jiang, who has a background in landscape architecture, is interested in the immediate surroundings of individuals, particularly in the relationship between architecture and landscapes. She found that gardens, plants, and other flora have strong therapeutic effects on individuals.

"You may explain such therapeutic effects from multiple perspectives. People's color/hue preferences tend to range from blue to green, nature and plants are positive distractions that could restore people's attentional fatigue, and human beings could have developed genetic preference of greenery from evolutionary perspectives," Jiang said.

"All mechanisms together contribute to the positive experience when looking at gardens and nature views,” she said.

Many hospitals across Europe have successfully integrated parks within hospital settings, Jiang said.

In the United States, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in California has patios and window nooks in every patient room, as well as a view in most rooms of a large healing garden.

Jiang said her work will continue to grow in this area, and she has released a book that emphasizes the importance of transparent spaces and windows and how they can strengthen human-nature interactions within health care environments.

Reference

Seeing 'green' can ease confusion, anger in navigating hospitals. Science Daily. News release. February 18, 2022. Accessed February 22, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220218172312.htm

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