Health Benefits of Hospital Gardens

Verdant landscapes have a soothing effect on patients’ minds. They alleviate stress and may even encourage healing, says a Scientific American report. While you may not find the historic gardens of Pennsylvania Hospital – the country’s first hospital – or the 360 degree green landscaped carpet of Martha Jefferson Hospital – voted America’s most beautiful hospital by healthcare staffing company Soliant Health in 2012 – in New Jersey, some of the state’s leading hospitals – such as Jersey Shore University Medical Center – boast colorful and neatly manicured green spaces. You may wonder why the outdoor architecture could be so important when treatment and care is administered indoors. The simple answer is: humans are evolutionarily wired to respond favorably to nature.

Nature – The great distracter

© britta60 - Fotolia.comWhen angry or depressed, we prefer to take a walk outside to forget our worries, even for a little while. Scenes of flowers, trees, lush turfs, butterflies and birds engross the human brain. The stimuli of colors and sounds refresh the mind. For patients spending hours on hospital beds and restricted to the four walls of an often morbid, if safe, environment, even views of a well-maintained garden can be a welcome break.

Specific ways in which hospital gardens heal

Many years ago, the dry moat around Pennsylvania Hospital was used as an exercising ground for mentally-ill patients. The present day hospital gardens look especially enchanting in spring when the decades old azaleas and wisterias are in full bloom. The hospital administration, has no doubt, invested effort and dollars into maintaining their prized gardens.

  • Images of nature lower blood pressure, respiration rate and production of stress hormones within four minutes.
  • More than 90% of humans experience a mood change from anxious to calm after spending time outside.
  • Studies reveal that patients in hospitals with beautiful garden views sleep better, tolerate pain better, report lower stress levels, and spend lesser time in the hospital in comparison to those who are forced to stare at a wall.
  • The social interactions facilitated by garden hospitals accessible to patients, families and staff have a positive effect on immune functions and emotional well-being.

Where feasible, every hospital in NJ must make an effort to improve its lawns or landscape through smart design/build solutions. Patient-centric care is not restricted to indoor architecture alone. Healing gardens and usable landscaped spaces can greatly improve the charm of hospitals and present patients with the wonderful opportunity to at least gaze at nature if not physically access it.