LOS ALTOS, CA, August 19, 2013 — The good news is that for the past many years, quite a lot of attention has been given to making a visit with your doctor as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Even better is the underlying awareness of the impact such attention to detail can have on a patient’s mentality which, in turn, can have a significant impact on his or her health.
Even so, it’s likely that beauty and light, comfort and hope aren’t the first things that come to mind when thinking about your local hospital or clinic. Yet that is precisely the impression you get once you’ve seen the work being done by groups like Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo (RTR4C), a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to transforming once drab and dreary hospital rooms into oases of healing.
The idea, conceived by RTR4C founder and botanical artist Nancy Ballard, is to connect a team of volunteer designers and artists with medical facilities in need of a little sprucing up. The result is an environment that feels more like a home than a hospital.
“It is incredible. Bright and beautiful,” commented El Camino Hospital Cancer Center medical director Dr. Shane Dormady in a recent article about a RTR4C project at his Mountain View, California facility. “It almost puts a lump in my throat.”
Besides inspiring such emotional responses, evidence suggests that these kinds of cheery surroundings can also improve patient outcomes.
For instance, a hospital in Pittsburgh found that patients recovering in sunny rooms required 22 percent less pain medication than those in dimly lit rooms. Another study found that postsurgical patients with a view of trees not only used less pain medication but also suffered fewer complications and didn’t stay as many days in the hospital compared to those with a view of a brick wall.
Medical experts are also finding that it’s not just an individual’s physical view that can make a difference, but their mental outlook as well.
As was mentioned in this column last week, a working group from the National Cancer Institute found that by including the word “cancer” in their diagnosis, a doctor could inadvertently increase a patient’s fear, causing them to seek out what some consider to be unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments. The solution, the group said, is to simply eliminate this word from the diagnosis altogether, especially when there is little if any chance that the patient will suffer from this condition during his or her lifetime.
In another column, integrative oncologist Dr. Kelly Turner said that of the 100 plus cancer survivors she has interviewed over the years – all of whom had adopted a non-conventional treatment program – the vast majority wanted to discuss the emotional and spiritual issues they faced during their recovery, over and above any physical challenges they might have been facing.
Still others tend to rely mostly if not exclusively on a more divinely inspired view of things to brighten their mental landscape and maintain their physical well being. Here, too, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that this approach is a lot more dependable than just hoping for the best or thinking positively.
Regardless of the changes made to an individual’s environment – prettier walls, better views, or a more consistent connection with the Divine – there does seem to be fairly widespread agreement between patients and medical professionals alike that caring for our health extends well beyond drugs and surgery. The awareness of this fact alone just might reduce the need for such methods in the future, providing us all with a brighter and more hopeful view of health going forward.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local, regional, and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.
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