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How to improve healthcare staff's well-being - strategy no.1

Clinics and hospitals are facing huge challenges in recruiting, as personnel is becoming more and more scarce, and rates of turnover are rising. Furthermore, burnout and poor well-being in healthcare staff are a growing problem with absenteeism as a consequence. A study by Aiken et al. (2012) on "Patient safety, satisfaction, and quality of hospital care" study, surveying 61,168 nurses across 12 European countries and the USA found that in nine countries a quarter or more of the nursing workforce was burnt-out, with rates as high as 78% in Greek nurses. And these numbers are continuously growing.

Causes of burnout and stress are various and have been studied in many researches in the field. Inadequate staffing, excessive workload, exposure to violent patients, lack of moments of respite between intense emotional involvements with patients and exposure to continuous high levels of noise are amongst the most quoted.

Needless to say, supporting healthcare staff’s well-being is crucial to improving patient care.

Luckily, there are solutions to tackling and preventing those problems. Many of these are active, direct solutions, others are more passive and indirect. Active solutions such as organizational or individual interventions aim to remove the presence of stressors at work by actively working on the emotional balance of the individual. Those include task restructuring, manager to employee relationship building, teambuilding, mindfulness-based-stress-reduction programs, training on emotional management, communication management or art therapy to name but a few.

The passive solutions on the other hand, aim to remove the presence of stressors and at the same time to enhance the presence of calming elements within the physical working environment. At Ardism we are moved by the impact environment has on the human well-being. Therefore, we will focus on a few of these passive strategies in the coming series of articles.

The good news is, whatever strategies are implemented to improve caregivers’ environment also have a positive impact on their patients.



In this article, we will develop our first strategy:


Reconnecting WITH NATURE

Ardism - hospital design

Have you ever wondered why apps that seek to relax their users use natural sceneries and sounds as wallpapers or themes? Why do we not see an image of a comfy living room, a bustling city view, an open office space or a hospital staff lounge instead?

Why do these same natural sceneries pop up in our mind again when we think of going on a retreat?

You have probably never asked yourself that question because the answer seems so obvious, and yet once we try to explain it, we can only come up with hypotheses.

However deep inside us we know that the relationship between humans and nature is intricate. Quoting the poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, in his book called Beauty, “The earth is our origin and destination.” Nature offers a calming stillness in contrast to the frenetic lifestyles we are living today. Contemplating the slow-growing elements of nature challenge our impatience and encourage us to calm down. Evidence shows that exposure to nature actually reduces cognitive fatigue and stress and increases the levels of concentration.

Reconnecting staff with nature is an easy strategy one can apply to increase their well-being. The ideal scenario is that of a simple window to a beautiful landscape, garden or courtyard and the possibility for staff to get out in these green surroundings for breaks. Combination of physical exercise and nature is optimal to achieve our purpose. The setting of the building and its shape unfortunately do not always allow for this, but happily there are other ways. 

Ardism_healthcare architecture.jpg

When you cannot watch nature outside, bring it inside. Adding plants, or even green walls, inside the rooms can be done in most of hospital rooms, avoiding rooms where infection control is an issue, such as sterile and clean rooms. Interior plants even have the benefit of removing toxins from the air and further contributing to a good health.


If the maintenance of these is worrisome, one can think of setting up team programs where staff is invited to engage in taking a few mindful minutes on a regular basis to water the plants. Note as well that synthetic plants, whilst they do not offer the same air-cleaning advantages as real plants, have been proven to have the same benefits on our mental well-being. Their quality and resemblance to real plants has increased dramatically over the last years.

Ardism_healthcare interiors.jpg

And finally, if neither options above are convenient, artwork, photographs or even video projections could do the trick. This is where green or eco therapy joins art therapy. In their study on healing art, Ulrich and Gilpin (2003) suggest that nature art (or art with views or representations of nature) will promote restoration if “it contains the following features: calm or slowly moving water, verdant foliage, flowers, foreground spatial openness, park-like or Savannah-like properties (scattered 

trees, grassy undershot), and birds or other unthreatening wildlife.” When placing the artwork, it is important of course to make sure that they are visible to the people they are intended for.

by Sylvie Meunier

November 8, 2019

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