How Nature Views Affect Hospital Recovery Times

David Palenski
31st January, 2024

How Nature Views Affect Hospital Recovery Times

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Imagine waking up in a hospital room not to the sterile white walls or the incessant beeping of machines, but to the sight of a lush garden outside your window, the sounds of a babbling brook filling the room, and the soft glow of natural light warming your face. This scenario might sound like a luxury, yet it captures the essence of an expanding trend in healthcare design – one that could significantly shape the future of medical environments and patient recovery. The notion that nature can be healing is not new; it's rooted deep in our psyche, a concept termed 'biophilic design.' This philosophy suggests that infusing elements of the natural world into our man-made habitats can have rejuvenative effects on the human spirit and body. While this has been a guiding principle for long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers, its application in acute care — that is, during short yet critical hospital stays — offers an intriguing frontier for healthcare advancement. But what's the evidence for such an approach? Enter the world of scientific inquiry, where researchers have rolled up their sleeves and sifted through stacks of studies — precisely 12,979 citations at that — to answer this question. Eventually, they focused on 41 thought-provoking articles that peel back the layers of this subject with a scholarly eye. The results of these studies are as diverse as the colors in a meadow. From the uplifting effect of sunlight to the serenity brought on by panoramic vistas, the studies delved into various ways nature intervenes in the healing process. Some looked through the figurative window at real natural scenery, while others let the light in through literal windows. There were investigations into live plants placed with care around hospital spaces, artwork showcasing greenery and wildlife, hands-on interaction with nature, calming soundscapes of rustling leaves and flowing streams, and even the virtual embrace of nature through the marvel of virtual reality technology. Yes, the settings and measures were quite different, and researchers often asked very distinct questions, but a tapestry of findings began to emerge — one woven with the threads of psychological uplift. Patients experiencing these natural elements reported fewer shrouds of anxiety, less weight of depression, a dulling of pain, and an overall higher satisfaction with their care. An intriguing observation sprouted from this fertile ground of research: the intensity of the effect appeared to be dose-dependent. It seems the more time patients spent immersed in these natural experiences, and the more engaged their senses were, the brighter the blooms of benefit grew. It's as if nature's touch has a cumulative power, gathering strength with every hour spent under its influence. With the implementation of innovative technologies like virtual reality, the potential for multisensory immersion is more significant than ever. Imagine being transported from the confines of a hospital bed to a virtual walk among the towering trees of an ancient forest or the gentle shores of a quiet lake, engaging not just the sight and sound, but perhaps, one day, even the scents and touch of the outdoors. Indeed, the results of these inquiries send ripples of possibility through the realm of patient care. While the effect of nature's embrace during acute hospital stays may not be monumental, it is palpably positive, and most noteworthy in the psychological domains that so deeply affect patient experience and recovery. The studies remind us of the myriad ways in which the most basic of human connections — the bond with the natural world — plays a crucial role in health and healing. As surgeons and healthcare professionals at the University of Toronto and beyond continue to chart the course of medical innovation, the lessons from this research suggest a symbiosis between design and therapy, between the built environment and the path to wellness. It beckons a future where health facilities grow not only in technological sophistication but also in a deep understanding of and reverence for the therapeutic power of the world around us. The seeds have been planted in the soil of scientific inquiry, and as time goes by, it is up to us to tend to this growing field, nurturing the integration of nature into the care that we give and the healing spaces we create.



Main Study

1) The Influence of Exposure to Nature on Inpatient Hospital Stays: A Scoping Review.

Published 30th January, 2024

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