It has already been one month since I moved into my office in Jennie Sealy Hospital. It seems like time is flying! I am starting to feel at home in our new space, even as activation of the building continues and preparations are ongoing to prepare to greet and care for our first patients. I have truly enjoyed being in the new hospital and am impressed by and proud of its features.
As a lover of art, I cannot help but tell people how much I am enjoying the collection we selected. As I walk the hallways traveling from unit to unit in the hospital, I still find it remarkable how the art collection transformed the patient care and public spaces. If you had an opportunity to tour the hospital during the dedication events held last month, you may have seen some of the beautiful prints and framed photography on each floor. I have noticed how the natural light that pours through the windows illuminates the different pieces and brings out different shades and tones in the art at different times of the day. It is also fun to know that many of the scenes in the art can be seen in real time, just by looking out the window!
I recall from my own experience as a patient, a hospital experience is an inherently stressful one—even for someone who came to get well. (I know I’d personally rather be at the beach!) So as I visit the units, I have also spent a lot of time trying to imagine how patients and their loved ones will experience the new hospital. Jennie Sealy Hospital is UTMB’s gift to Galveston Island, and it is the setting in which our patient care teams and staff will care for the people of the communities we serve. I feel as though the art we chose offers a beautiful depiction of what those who live in Galveston experience, as well as what tourists and visitors see of the area.
The large photographs on canvas in the main hallways give the viewer a sensation of almost actually “being there” on the beach and watching the waves come in under a beautiful sky, while reproductions of paintings by local artists like Rene Wiley-Janota and Randall Cogburn offer impressionist views of seabirds, dramatic landscapes of the gulf, and scenes from the beaches of Galveston. Photographs of local landmarks offer glimpses into the history and seaside ambiance of the island, and close ups of natural objects like plants and seashells convey the texture of surfaces so vividly, that one feels as though they might actually reach out to touch the object itself.
In my Friday Flash Report last week, I discussed some of the evidence-based design elements that were incorporated into the hospital that would help provide a safe patient care environment and healing atmosphere. Incorporating natural light and elements was one of our guiding principles. Using art as a positive distraction was also an important factor.
Art as a positive distraction means that it is something—an environmental feature—that elicits positive feelings, holds the viewer’s attention and interest, and therefore, reduces stressful thoughts. It offers the viewer something else to think about beyond the fact that they are in a hospital environment. It also helps make the environment feel more homelike by “deinstitutionalizing” the hospital setting into a place that is more comfortable and uplifting. Conversely, when patient care environments lack positive distractions, it may cause patients to focus increasingly on their own worries, fears or pain.
After Cleveland Clinic conducted a survey among patients of their art collection in 2014, they discovered it had measurable positive effects on patients’ moods, comfort, stress and overall impression of their visit to the hospital. In fact, more than 60 percent of patients reported a reduction in stress from the hospital’s art collection. For some patients and visitors, the art offers a natural focal point or incentive to walk down the hall. For others, it provided an opportunity to peacefully reflect.
A 2011 University of London study found that blood flow increased 10 percent to the “joy response” part of the brain when subjects saw a beautiful painting – just like when you look at a loved one. Additional research suggests that art showing views or representations of nature can actually help promote restoration, particularly when it features calm or slowly moving waters, plants and flowers, spatial openness, and birds or other wildlife. (I found it interesting to learn that studies suggest patients favor shades of blues and greens in landscapes and nature scenes.)
Florence Nightingale is quoted as saying, “Never underestimate the healing effects of beauty.” Looking at the entire collection of art throughout the hospital, I believe patients and visitors will respond positively to the healing atmosphere of UTMB’s new Jennie Sealy Hospital. The art throughout the building will surely promote conversation, offer a pleasant visual experience, and create a relaxing atmosphere. I hope our patients enjoy the collection as much as I have!