Mar 24, 2021

Nature and Your Healthcare

Why nature?

In healthcare facilities where challenges to life and health are routine, building access to nature provides patients, their families and their providers positive distractions and soothing environments to help manage elevated stress. Research and evidence-based design suggest whether inside or outdoors, encounters with nature in healthcare environments provide physical, psychological and sensory relief to everyone.

Any connection with nature, from looking out the window to lying in the grass, has positive psychological effects and benefits for each of us. The intensified stress we feel in the healthcare environment diminishes with increased access.. The intensified stress we feel in the healthcare environment logically requires increased access. To create those connections, healthcare designers routinely include views to outside, live plants, pictures of nature, aquariums and terrariums as elements to bring healing nature within reach. Light wells and skylights, fountains and water features introduce natural daylighting, movement and sound into institutional environments. Healing gardens, roof decks and landscaping can introduce calming natural scents to round out the sensory environment.

Photo VA Monterey

Two decades after Roger Ulrich’s 2001 seminal work: Effects of Healthcare Environmental Design on Medical Outcomes, trends and challenges to healthcare systems have only accelerated, notwithstanding challenges brought by Covid.

• Strong pressures to reduce costs and improve quality
• Growing numbers of elderly
• Shifts in healthcare demand and facility use patterns such increased need for outpatient/ ambulatory and long-term care, shorter inpatient stays for acute care, greater demand for critical care, pandemic support
• Need to adopt effective but costly new medical technologies and treatments that often require new facility designs
• Mounting demands to increase patient satisfaction
• Growing stresses, work demands for healthcare staff (declining staff/patient ratios, attracting and retaining quality employees)
• Mainstream medical community now accepts that stress and psychosocial factors affect health

Imagine the boost to healing and morale from patient room views to nature and access to mindfully designed public spaces, interior courtyards and atria. These spaces might function as landmark design elements or wayfinding and can deliver natural daylight to major gathering spaces. Upper-level floors benefit from roof gardens and terraces rather than exposed mechanical equipment and void expanses. Green roof technology is commonly implemented for environmental reasons and supports therapeutic and healing gardens. And all current and future designs consider the long term flexibility of the space.

UC Davis Med photo by One Workplace

Our One Workplace Healthcare team supports major healthcare systems and retail medical organizations on large and small projects across Northern California and Washington state. The vastly diverse design requirements offer opportunities for knowledge and experience.

One rewarding example is the UCSF Mission Bay Medical Center. Once completed, the amount of green space contained within it will be among the highest of any urban hospital in the US. 16 separate gardens, including five rooftop gardens located throughout the complex are included in the plans. Each green roof and garden within the Betty Irene Moore Women's Hospital such as the Women's View Garden, features a unique character and use, with specific layouts tailored to address patient needs and hospital requirements. Outdoor balconies and terraces are integrated for patients, families, and staff to experience fresh air and sunlight from within every patient-care unit.

Access to nature has become a tool in healthcare environments, spend some time on your next healthcare visit to experience the benefits.

UCSF Mission Bay photo by David Wakeley