Posts Tagged ‘healing environments’

Last week I published a post about Renown Health’s commitment to taking action outside of the hospital’s walls to address community health. I visited Renown a couple of weeks ago and was thoroughly impressed by so many aspects of their operation. Today I’m sharing some thoughts about what Renown Health is doing within its walls to create a healing and healthy environment for patients, family members, visitors and employees.


Photo Caption: Display of artwork at Renown Health

When I speak at conferences, there are always a few audience members who are surprised to hear me say that many hospitals were not designed with the patient and his or her family in mind. For decades we built institutions that were not patient- and family-friendly and certainly weren’t hospitable. The facilities were cold and stark. They were loud. Lighting was horrible. These were not what I call healing environments. They were places for medical and therapeutic interventions – and for monitoring patients during recovery.

Today we understand that the environment has a lot to do with the patient’s recovery and well-being. It can also impact employees and their job performance. So, thank goodness, we are building amazing new healthcare facilities that truly offer patients, family members and hospital employees a healing and healthy environment. Many new hospitals have circadian lighting to simulate a natural environment. It is common to find artwork on the walls of the facility, and occasionally in patient rooms. I love this trend! Patient rooms now make accommodations for family members spending the night. Many hospitals have even eliminated formal visiting hours and offer valet parking – two patient-centric developments.

Throughout the industry there has also been an effort to make hospitals healthier environments by eliminating smoking and by emphasizing healthy food options in cafeterias and other hospital-based restaurants. Many healthcare organizations now have weekly farmer’s markets for their employees and visitors – emphasizing the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating. And finally, the Green Health movement has led to many hospitals to start using non-toxic building and cleaning products to reduce the negative health impact on patients, visitors and employees.

Within the hospital’s walls: As my colleague and I toured Renown last week we were astounded by the healing environment they have created. And trust me, not every hospital qualifies as having a healing environment. So what has Renown done to distinguish itself? First, Renown has more original art displayed throughout the medical center than I have ever seen within a healthcare organization – paintings, photography and sculpture. There are also amazing healing gardens for adults and children. The adult garden has a labyrinth – an amazing tool for meditation and reflection.


Photo Caption: Glass Sculpture at Renown Health


Photo Caption: Children’s Healing Garden at Renown Health

One of the other patient- and family-friendly features that impressed me as we toured Renown is the abundance of retail within the medical center. Renown Regional Medical Center is home to a variety of shops offering everything from mom and baby gifts to trendy clothing, from fresh-cut flowers to balloons, from sit-down dining to grab-and-go treats. The Shops at Renown Health include a CVS Pharmacy, the Artisan Market Bistro, Starbucks, an upscale Boutique, a floral shop, FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt, Subway, a logo shop for Renown apparel, a traditional gift shot (Sierra Gifts), and a cafe featuring healthy options and cuisine from around the world (Chinese, Mexican, European, Mediterranean, etc). When visiting the shops and restaurants you get a sense of the familiar – a feeling a normalcy. That has to be a calming experience for patients, family members and visitors.

Finally, Renown has full service hotel on the Renown Regional Medical Center campus. The Inn at Renown offers non-smoking rooms perfect for patients and their families, medical center visitors and guests attending on-campus seminars. Three of the rooms include kitchenettes for guests who plan an extended stay.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-8-27-27-amThese are just a few of the features I noted while on our tour of Renown Regional Medical Center. The abundance of original art, because it is so visually striking, left the greatest impression upon me. This was particularly true in the Renown Institute for Cancer. When the patient enters the Institute, he or she immediately faces a vibrant wall sculpture. Around every corner is the visitor finds a new piece of art. My guess is that the environment is not at all what first time visitors expect of a cancer center. However, it is what I have come to expect of modern, patient-friendly facilities!

If you’re interested in the creation of healing environments within hospitals, here are some posts I’ve written on the subject in the past:

Vermont Hospitals Embrace Art to Create Healing Environments

Reducing Hospital Noise to Create Healing Environments

Hospitals Offering Concierge Services for Patients

Green Initiatives on the Rise in Healthcare

Bringing the Arts into your Hospital


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For years I have written about the movement to create healing environments within hospitals. It seems strange to say it, but most hospitals fall short in this regard. Most hospitals are loud, have poor lighting, and the decor does nothing to create a soothing, healing setting. They feel institutional. Fortunately, this has been changing over the last several years.

Here’s one extraordinary example. The Susan Sebastian Foundation has just finished placing art in more than 1,000 patient rooms in each of the Vermont’s 14 hospitals. Each piece of art was created by a Vermont Artist. The final hospital to benefit from this effort was Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) in Bennington, which received approximately $50,000 in art for its 54 patient rooms. SVMC and the Susan Sebastian Foundation co-sponsored a juried art exhibit of more than 100 pieces from local artists. 54 pieces were selected for the hospital and purchased through the generosity of the Susan Sebastian Foundation.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 3.32.18 PMThe foundation was created in honor of a patient of Vermont hospitals, Susan Sebastian, who was born in Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in 1956. Susan endured a long illness with extensive hospitalizations, and spent a great deal of time looking at the bare walls of hospital rooms. It was her wish that every hospital room in Vermont be hung with gentle, inspiring art by Vermont artists. Since Susan’s death in 2009, her mother Elise Braun has worked to fulfill her daughter’s wish. Braun has used the book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being by Dr. Esther Sternberg to help guide the Foundation’s purchases (paintings and photography), which are meant to take the patient out of the room and into the outdoors to a favorite vista or recreational hobby.

A post from Jennings' Facebook page featuring local art at Copley Hospital in Vermont.

A post from Jennings’ Facebook page featuring local art at Copley Hospital in Vermont.

For me, it is always a pleasure to visit hospitals that have made an effort to introduce art into their facilities. Several of my client hospitals, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (NH), Copley Hospital (VT), Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (VT), have used art to infuse warmth, texture and a sense of the natural world into the medical space. The story of Elise Braun’s work, honoring of her daughter’s wish to bring art into patient rooms, is inspiring. Just think of the thousands of lives that will be positively impacted.

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Last weekend we celebrated my wife’s birthday. One of the things she decided we would do as a family was help our friends build a labyrinth in their backyard. As a family we have walked labyrinths in various locations around the country, including a beautiful example at the Stowe Flake Resort in Stowe, Vermont. I’ve also seen labyrinths at a number of hospitals across the country. (For a list of hospitals with Labyrinths, go to http://www.labyrinthproject.com/hospitals.html.) Hospitals are incorporating these meditative paths into their healing gardens. Walking a labyrinth can still the mind, provide clarity, reduce stress and promote tranquility. They seem to have wonderful therapeutic qualities and have been around for nearly 6000 years! They are apparently undergoing a revival.

So, as a family we’re familiar with labyrinths and their meditative properties, but we’d never help to build one. We used a huge fabric template that our friends had ordered from the Labyrinth Company (www.labyrinthcompany.com). And then, following the template, we laid flat stones to create the pathways. The process took the better part of the day. It was an amazing experience to share with good friends. Here are a couple of photos of our labyrinth project:

For more information on Hospital labyrinths, here are a couple of articles:

Labyrinth Construction at St. Vincent-Jennings Hospital

Here’s a quote about labyrinths from “The Transformation and Healing Power of the Labyrinth: An Emerging Vernacular Belief Community” by Maida Owens (http://tinyurl.com/2eoqc2d):

“Today in the United States, labyrinths are located in sacred settings, including churches and synagogues, and secular settings such as hospitals, hospices, schools, prisons, and parks. The labyrinth itself can be located indoor or out, permanent or temporary. Installations can feature different patterns to walk and can be simply a path mowed into grass, painted on a portable canvas, or created with pavers or granite.

Because labyrinths have primarily been located in churches, they are generally presented as a practice for spiritual healing. Progressive, mainstream Christian churches often embrace a labyrinth ministry in an effort to return to mysticism or introduce a contemplative tradition. More recently, they are found in new settings, such as hospitals and parks. In secular contexts, less spiritual language is used, and the labyrinth’s power to reduce stress is emphasized along with its role in mind-body healing. In settings such as faith-based hospitals, both spiritual and scientific arguments are used. The Labyrinth Society (2006) says that “labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity,” meaning that a labyrinth is a tool that accesses the intuitive, creative modes of thinking. Mazes, on the other hand, require linear, logical, rational problem-solving.”

Finally, below is an interesting time lapse video that shows a group building a labyrinth at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. It is pretty cool to watch this labyrinth develop:

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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I recently found an interesting article written by Devin Powell of Inside Science News Service titled “Hushing Noisy Hospitals: As hospitals grow louder, new guidelines promise a good night’s sleep for some.” One of my main interests these days continues to be the movement within healthcare to create healthy and healing environments in hospitals. It sounds so obvious but we’re still a long way from achieving that vision. Powell’s article deals with something every hospital patient (and employee) has had to endure: noisy hospitals!

According to Powell, a growing body of research suggest that hospital noise is contributing to medical errors and is taking a toll on patient well-being. But there’s hope. “This year, many states will finally do something about the problem. Across the country, new building codes will for the first time require newly-constructed hospitals to meet minimum noise standards before opening their doors.” (Source: Inside Science, August 2010)

In the article, Powell gives us the example of Johns Hopkins Hospital and others, and the voluntary steps they are taking to reduce noise in their facilities. Hospitals that already exist, don’t have to comply with the new noise standards. They only apply to new construction.

This is a terrific article by Devin Powell. Check it out online at http://tinyurl.com/36lhd55.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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Picture 9One important element (and trend) involved in creating healing environments is the integration of the arts into facilities and programming. Last night I attended an art show and reception at Duke University Medical Center. The show was part of Duke’s Health Arts Network at Duke (H.A.N.D.) and celebrated submissions to the 31st Annual Duke Employee Art Show. The event I attended was held in the Duke Eye Center, and featured the creations of the children of Duke employees. A particular 11-year old aspiring artist from my household won second place in the youth category. It was a cool event, but the more important point is the way Duke integrates art into it’s clinical environments. The HAND program includes an Artists in Residence program that brings professional performers to the bedside and makes them accessible to family, visitors and staff. These artists also perform in the lobbies of various buildings within the medical complex. Here’s the link to visit the performing arts page of the HAND website: http://hand.duhs.duke.edu/performing.html. (Check out the list of “Arts in Healthcare” resources listed later in this post.)

HAND ProgramAccording to their literature, “the mission of the HAND program is to integrate arts and humanities into the life of the Medical Center, to provide comfort, solace and healing to people who suffer and those who care for them.”  There is also an entire visual arts program within the HAND initiative at Duke. They maintain and exhibit inventory of over 2000 original artworks, almost entirely by North Carolina artists, including drawings, paintings, photographs, pottery, prints, sculpture and weavings throughout the Medical Center. Duke Medicine partners with state agencies, community organizations, local arts associations, artists groups and co-ops to bring arts resources of North Carolina into the hospital. This is really an incredible and far reaching program that also extends to include the literary arts.

On the HAND website, Kevin Sowers, the CEO of Duke University Hospital is quoted regarding the importance of integrating art into the healthcare setting:

“Integration of the arts in medicine is incredibly important in the lives of our patients, families and staff. The arts create meaning to the journey that they’re on while they’re in the hospital.

As we think to the future of the delivery of healthcare, more and more, we will be faced with the challenges of further understanding the mind, body and spirit connection. The arts draw on all three pieces: the mind, the body and the spirit. I believe advancement of our understanding of psycho-neuroimmunology and the impact and influence of the arts on healing and well-being will be an important component of the future of the delivery of healthcare.”

For more information about the HAND program, go to http://hand.duhs.duke.edu/history.html. Although many hospitals and medical centers have ventured into this realm, this is a particularly rich program worth emulating.

If you’d like to research other hospital art programs, I’ve provided some links below:

Healthcare Fine Art – An article/post on how to start a hospital fine arts program. http://www.healthcarefineart.com/2009/07/how-to-start-a.html

Society for Arts in Healthcare – This is a post about the Society for Arts in Healthcare. http://www.healthcarefineart.com/2007/08/interview-socie.html

How to Sell a Hospital Fine Arts Program – Interesting post with details about how to sell a hospital fine arts program. http://www.healthcarefineart.com/2008/06/how-to-sell-a-h.html

Arts in Medicine Program, Shands Hospital, Gainesville, Florida (http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring02/rojas/hospitalart.htm)

Bethesda Hospital Healing Arts Programhttp://www.bethesdahospital.org/healing_arts/index.cfm

The Foundation for Hospital Art http://www.hospitalart.com/

Stanford Hospital and Clinic’s  Arts for Healing Program (http://news.stanford.edu/news/1998/november11/medart1111.html). Here’s the link directly to the arts program on Stanford’s website:  http://stanfordhospital.org/forPatients/patientServices/artProgram.html

Rx Art – a non-profit organization that is committed to fostering artistic expression and awareness through the challenging yet rewarding task of engaging patients through contemporary art in healthcare facilities. Installations have included Children’s Hospital Boston, Beth Israel Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital – New York and many more.  http://www.rxart.net/projects

Arts Empowerment: Arts in Hospital and Therapeutic Settings – http://www.artslynx.org/heal/hospital.htm

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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