1 Sep, 2019 | Written by Premis

The Role of Art in Hospital Design

Art has an enormous impact in hospital settings, with images of beaches, forests and mountains connecting patients and staff to the natural world outside.

Here's how incorporating art into hospital refurbishment or design can help relieve patient suffering, improve staff wellbeing and provide respite from the clinical environment.   

A Connection to Nature

Hospital art generally depicts nature, which signifies beauty and good health. Hospitals and illness create a physical and psychological barrier between the patient and this natural, healthy world.

A US report on hospital art programs found:

  • Patients reported better pain control when exposed to sounds and vision from nature.
  • Murals resulted in a significant decrease in reported pain intensity, pain quality and anxiety by burn patients.
  • Breast cancer patients reported reduced anxiety, fatigue and distress during chemo when viewing virtual reality underwater scenes.

A recent Premis project involved constructing an obstetrics theatre at Brisbane’s Greenslopes Private Hospital. The client wanted a mural of a tropical ocean installed in the theatre - an example of introducing nature into an otherwise stark environment.

And it's not just patients who benefit from depictions of nature. The report found 55% of hospital art programs focused on helping staff reduce stress and burnout.

Contributing to a Healing Environment

For patients, art has an influence on emotional recovery. A patient survey, Cultures of Care: A Study of Arts Programs in US Hospitals, found:

  • 78% of respondents said art aids mental and emotional recovery.
  • 79% said art creates a healing environment.

Although 46% said art could be a part of physical recovery, its importance lay in environmental and psychological enrichment.

Another Premis project - at Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast - included ceiling panels of bright tropical fish for patients to look up at during imaging appointments, offering a welcome distraction and a touch of natural beauty to the clinical setting.

Art’s Multiple Functions

Art can also fulfil other practical functions in healthcare settings. It offers a distraction from a hospital’s clinical environment. It gives staff and patients a common talking point; a springboard to conversations about trips to natural beauty spots, favourite trees or flowers.

Prominent art can act as wayfinding or signposts for patients and visitors negotiating featureless hospital corridors: “Turn right at the big tree.”

Helping to Relieve Suffering

Art has become so important in healthcare facilities that it's now budgeted into a hospital’s design, along with lighting and furniture. There's a growing interest in how art affects patient and staff wellbeing.

As it has for thousands of years, art acts as a bond between people. Art can expand our horizons, taking us outside our present concerns to a better place. For this reason, it contributes to the relief of suffering and promotes a more positive mental state.

If you are embarking on a hospital refurbishment project, contact Premis to discuss your plans.

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