It’s now hard to imagine the United States without them, the healing gardens, or rather hospital gardens. Their popularity has really taken off in recent years, as there has been a growing amount of evidence that green contributes to the healing process. This is exactly why it’s so strange that Dutch hospitals devote so little attention to both indoor as well as outdoor green.

Green and healing go hand in hand. It’s quite remarkable that this important link appears to be so broken in the Netherlands. Green has historically always played an important role in the healing process. Just think about the medieval monasteries which looked after the sick. Treatment would always take place near the monastery garden, as people were convinced that fresh air and green would stimulate the healing process. A great deal of attention was also devoted to green in the Renaissance building style. With the rise of lung diseases and tuberculosis, hospital pavilions and sanatoriums were built right in the middle of nature at the start of the 19th century, as people felt this was beneficial to the patients. So green has therefore been a basic element of the healing process for many centuries. The link between green and healing started disappearing with the rise of modern healthcare, whereby the tackling of the condition as efficiently as possible became the central focus point and not the patient.

The healing aspects of green both in and around a hospital

Professor Roger S. Ulrich is one of the pioneers who brought back the attention to green in hospitals during the nineteen nineties. Research allowed him to discover that green can result in positive social and psychological changes in patients. For example, this means stress and anxiety will decline in green environments and patients will feel more balanced.

He found the following benefits. Therapeutic green in and around a hospital:

  • facilitates stress reduction, which helps to bring the body back into balance more quickly;
  • helps a patient to appeal to his own healing abilities;
  • helps a patient to accept an incurable medical condition;
  • offers an environment within which psychological therapy can take place;
  • offers personnel a place to sit down and relax and temporarily recover from work related stress;
  • offers a relaxed place for patients to meet their visitors, a little removed from the hospital atmosphere.

One of the experiments he conducted was to compare a group of 160 gall bladder patients. Half of them had views including greenery, the other half didn’t. Those with the view scored better in all areas. They were able to go home more quickly, required less pain medication, felt better, etc. This implies that adding green can also result in cost reductions.

His research also demonstrated that simply looking at green can have stress reducing effects within five minutes.

Working in a patient focussed manner

The market forces have forced hospitals in the Netherlands to be distinctive and to put more focus on the patient’s wellbeing. This type of research demonstrates that a patient who feels better will also heal more quickly, which means investing in the patient, rather than just the illness or condition, will even result in cost savings! A hospital garden or indoor garden in the central hall will also contribute to this. An efficiently developed garden can also be an environment within which new types of therapy can be developed.

More reasons for combining green and care

Nature and healing don’t just belong together from a historical point of view, but green also effortlessly links into modern sustainable thinking. Read more about green buildings or the case about gardens for dementia patients.