I have spent three half-days at a hospital this week. Two were at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins and one was at Mercy Medical Center.
In a medical world that can be overwhelmingly bureaucratic, efforts to humanize hospitals make a big difference.
The first and last visits were at Wilmer, where art is everywhere: on the walls in the waiting rooms, halls, examination rooms and offices, even on the ceilings in pre-surgical cubicles and on computer screens. Some are prints. Others are originals. Artists range from painters Wolf Kahn and Clarice Smith to panoramic photographer David Orback, to sculptor John Safer, whose three-story piece “Quest” reaches up, as a focal point in the central, light-filled atrium.
Gardens are omnipresent at both institutions. This week, pansies and violas were being planted for winter color in front of both main buildings. At Mercy, besides gardens in front of the main building, new gardens have been installed in front of the new Mary Catherine Bunting Center and atop three levels. Wind-and-heat-tolerant trees and gardens on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors are therapeutic to patients, who can look out on them and come outside with their families, and to the staff as well.
At the new Wilmer building, the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Building, gardens are in front, back and on one side. The Smiths also endowed a maintenance fund for the gardens, key to any garden’s survival and particularly important in institutional gardens surrounded by concrete.
The effort at medical institutions to bring therapeutic green to patients and their families is laudable. It is also smart. Both make the institutions more beautiful and attractive to doctors and patients. The medical consumer is one consumer still active, even in a downturn.
More importantly, being outdoors in nature and looking at the green has long been known to help calm and relax the body and mind. Once, patients were put out on porches at hospitals for the fresh air. Few hospital porches remain. Even fewer are used. Rooftop gardens and inner courtyard gardens bring a comeback to fresh air exposure and the healing effects of gardens.
Inside, art on the walls lifts the spirits and carries the mind far away from medical situations. Art and gardens engage the senses to reduce stress and boost professionals and patients.