Healing Environments

European and Asian cultures have been involved in holistic healing for centuries. Healing is a highly developed art form that includes positive attitudes and a specific physical environment. This setting is “often viewed as a stressor and linked with disease processes.” Several factors that cause measurable physiological reactions in the body include air quality, thermal comfort, noise control, privacy, light, views of nature, visual serenity, and visual stimulation.
Connection to Nature
o As explained by evolutionary theory, humans feel drawn to nature. We respond to elements that have been important to us for years: water, sunlight, trees, animals, and plants. Views to nature provide visual stimulation for healing patients. A study by researcher Roger Ulrich in 1984 summarized stress reducing effects by measuring levels of stress hormones released into the blood. He found that by viewing water in a rural setting, relaxation occurred in three to six minutes. Healing Environments - Health Architecture o Symbolism in nature – Humans tend to find comfort in nature. These feelings are most likely a result of the symbolism in nature.
  • Water is associated with birth and purification.
  • Flowers are associated with the fragility of life.
  • Stones express strength and the ability to withstand stress.
  • Rainbows may symbolize good fortune and hope.
o Studies have found that the enHealing Environments - Health Architecturevironment has a strong therapeutic quality. Healthcare environments will typically have some form of indoor landscaping or private gardens for healing patients. ·

Options and choices
o The Planetree Model developed for a surgical unit at Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center in San Fransisco is based on offering patients choices and individualized control over most aspects of their stay. Respect for the patient is help at the highest level of importance. In this model, the patient is allowed to choose types of care, family support, and privacy. The patient becomes empowered by becoming engaged in the healing process.
o Patients are encouraged to be as independent as they can be. This centers on the design of the environment they are staying in. They can control the lighting, the amount of privacy they desire, and the involvement of family.
o Patient rooms typically include shelves for personal belongings such as plants, pictures, personal mementos, etc. Sleeper chairs are offered for family members, as well as a lounge for relaxing as to remove themselves from nurse circulation.
o Outside the patient rooms are entertainment units. Music, film, and nature are offered to the patients as part of their therapy. This allows them access to sources to help them with their illness. ·







Social support
o Family zone in patient room with furniture for lounging and/or sleeping o Often times providing a separate space larger than the patient room is good stimulation during visiting hours

Positive distraction
o Providing views to nature
  • Physical access to healing gardens
  • Artwork depicting nature
  • Music
  • Mild physical exercise
  • Stimulation that enhances the individuals well-being
Elimination of environmental stresses
    • There are many qualities of environmental stress:

  • Physical threat: exposure to heat or cold
  • Stimulus information overload: too many decisions based on the individuals relationship to the environment
  • Suitability of environment: the ability of the environment to support individuals goals (way finding)
  • Social: environments that are coded with security and identity
  • Demandingness of environment: amount of energy required to interact with the environment
  • Information deprivation: to function normally, we need challenges
  • Proper lighting levels are important to relieve stress
  • Noise control and visual privacy o Providing a separate quiet area for patients
  • Artwork can enhance aesthetics Based on the research conducted by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and Craig Zimring of the Georgia Institute of Technology, they conclude that hospitals contribute to stress and danger. Improved physical settings are an important tool in making hospitals safer, more healing, and better places to work.
Several design innovations should be implemented to contribute to the healing process:
  • Build larger single-bed rooms and reduce hospital-induced infections while including spaces for patient, family and staff activities and in-room procedures
  • Make rooms adaptable by standardizing shape, size and headwalls, thus reducing unnecessary, costly and dangerous patient transfers.
  • Include double-door bathroom access, reducing patient falls and staff injuries. - Install hand hygiene dispensers in each patient room to reduce staff-to-patient transmission of pathogens.
  • Provide positive distractions through art, restful views and access to nature, thus relieving unnecessary stress and improving patient satisfaction.


Sadler, B. L. (2004). "Designing with health in mind. Innovative design elements can make hospitals safer, more healing places." Modern Healthcare 34(42): 28-28.
Leibrock, Cynthia A. Harris, Debra. Design Details for Health: Making the most of Design’s Healing Potential. Second Edition. 2011.
Malkin, Jain. Hospital Interior Architecure. Print. 1992.

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