A Room With a View: Why We Need Art in Hospitals

As far back in time as the earliest cities in Persia, China, and Greece, patients in healthcare settings have had relief from looking at plants, water, and nature. In the Middle Ages, the first hospitals in Europe were in monasteries with windows looking onto a cloistered courtyard with plants and fountains. Today, we have solid evidence that just looking at images of natural landscapes can reduce stress and promote healing.

The physical environment significantly impacts a patient's mental state, and more and more healthcare professionals are realizing that art is one of the most obvious ways to add to the environment. Landscape photography and artwork for medical offices can help to improve medical outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Windows of Wellbeing: Wall Art for Hospitals

There have been many environmental psychology studies recording the effects of nature, and viewing natural landscapes, on human health and well-being.

For a long time, abstract art was displayed in medical settings. However, recent studies have shown that because abstract art is highly interpretive it can actually increase feelings of stress and anxiety.

Whereas abstract art can evoke negative response, people generally have positive responses to landscape art due to our biological bond to nature. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature because it evokes feelings of solace and connection.

Mesmerize from Andrew Shoemaker

Findings are consistent that beautiful nature and landscape scenes elicits a calming response from viewers—and in a hospital or healthcare setting, this natural response can help your mental state and healing process. Besides this sense of wellbeing, benefits of visual landscape art in healthcare facilities include:

  • Reducing patient & employee anxiety
  • Lower pain perception
  • Improving general mood
  • Reduced treatment times (non-operative)
  • Better recovery times

Relieve Medical Stress and Promote Healing

Positive distraction is a term used to describe the belief that environmental features can elicit positive feelings, hold attention and interest and, therefore, reduce stressful thoughts. In a hospital setting, this mental technique can be very valuable to patients, staff, and visitors alike.

Natural landscapes tend to have a calming effect that reduces distraction and restores the brain’s attention span. “Distraction therapy” uses sights and sounds of nature to relieve pain and anxiety.

a lone boat reflects in the calm waters of the pacific ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Molokai.  Fine art limited edition Hawaii photography

Mornings in Hawaii can be very special. I had found this beautiful boat as a subject the night before and returned at sunrise to find it so calm and serene to where the water is like a mirror. Endless beauty

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Evidence of the healing effect of landscape art in hospitals is plentiful:

The Healing Gardens: Hospital Design

Research has pointed to solid evidence of the tendency for patients to experience better health outcomes when being able to view nature. This has given way to the “Healing Gardens” approach—in other words, the integration of hospital design based on a patient’s ability to view nature.

a beautiful path flows through an enchanted forest at Honolua Bay on the Hawaiian island of Maui.  Hawaii fine art landscape photography by Andrew Shoemaker

This pathway takes you on a magical journey through this amazing enchanted forest. One of the most amazing places I've been to on the island of Maui, I felt I needed to capture the path itself to take you into this scene.

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One of the interesting facts about this Healing Gardens approach is that the patients don't need to be actively immersed in nature. They can experience benefits just by viewing it. This approach points to the importance of art in healthcare interior design.

Adding art to the often sterile walls of waiting rooms, hallways, and patient wards can improve the patient experience by adding a human touch and breathing new life into a frequently stressful environment.

Arguably, hospitals function on more than one level: In addition to the scientific, medical mode in which hospitals operate, they also operate on a spiritual level—restoring a sense of faith and hope—which is found reflected in the beauty and light of landscape photography.

Not only patients benefit from artwork in hospitals- art can promote a sense of well being and lower emotional tensions for staff, doctors, and family/visitors as well.

How to Incorporate Artwork into Healthcare Interior Design

All healthcare environments/practices can benefit from landscape photography. All of these places deserve the healing power of soothing scenes to offset the stress of medical procedures:

  • Hospitals
  • Urgent Care
  • Doctor's Offices
  • Dentists
  • Physical Therapy
  • Senior Living Residences

We can create a more positive atmosphere for healing! Here is a checklist of healthcare settings in which to display landscape photography:

  • Entrances
  • Waiting Rooms
  • Corridors
  • Patient rooms
  • Cafeterias
  • Staff rooms

Try the Andrew Shoemaker Photography art visualizer tool for a free mockup of what specific prints will look like in your space.

Collaborate with a Professional Artist for Hospital Wall Art

Individuals who work in healthcare art consulting or hospital design can benefit from collaboration with professional artists, especially those that specialize in landscape photography.

Andrew Shoemaker is a fine art photographer based in Maui, Hawaii renowned for nature photography of all kinds. He lives on the Island of Maui, and has quick access to some of the most beautiful locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

View the Andrew Shoemaker online gallery for a staggering collection of soothing and inspiring natural scenes.

an abstract blue panoramic image of the beautiful pacific ocean photographed off the coast of Maui, Hawaii.  Abstract photography by Andrew Shoemaker

In Hawaii we have an absence of nutrients in the water which creates the most blue water that I've ever seen. If you've ever been on a boat off of Maui, you'll see exactly what I'm describing. I was drawn to this abstract panoramic scene while on a boat chasing whales off the coast of Maui.

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A long exposure panoramic photograph captured at the beautiful Lanikai Beach on the island of Oahu.  Pastel colors at sunset here make this photograph special

One of the most peaceful zen type of an image that I've created, a long exposure at Lanikai Beach on the island of Oahu just has a surreal look. The water color and pastel tones here at sunset are just really special

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