Health and Nature: The Influence of Nature on Design of the Environment of Care
Much of the recent research in the fields of therapeutic and environmental design has to do with patient stress and health outcomes, which refer to an indicator or measure of a patient’s condition or progress. Now, healthcare designers are using this research to approach healthcare facility design with a different focus than the traditional methods.
This approach, called, evidence-based design, is based on information available from both research and project evaluations. Such design approaches are engaged to create environments that are therapeutic, supportive of family involvement, efficient for staff performance, and restorative for workers under stress. If implemented accordingly, these projects should result in demonstrated improvements in the organization’s clinical outcomes, economic performance, productivity, customer satisfaction, and cultural measures (Hamilton 2003).
One major component of this process is the role nature plays in the environment of care. According to Ulrich, health outcomes research can potentially “indicate the degree to which gardens in healthcare facilities are medically beneficial and cost-effective relative to such alternatives as not having gardens” (Ulrich 1999).
In fact, research has documented that the appropriate use of nature reduces stress (Tyson, Lambert & Beattie, 2002); improves health outcomes (Parsons and Hartig, 2001; Ulrich, 1999); supports pain management (Ulrich, 1984); and promotes a sense of overall well-being among patients, visitors, and staff (Mack, 2001).