Bringing nature nearer to the patient's experience


Nature of Healing Art Exhibition Launced to a Full House at Dorset County Hospital Alex Coulter Arts in Hospitakl Co-ordinator Reports June 27th

The mix reflected the different interests the presentations covered, and one of the particularly successful aspects of this event was the bringing together of different approaches and thinking around essentially the same theme.

The presentations combined:

A general overview and context for bringing nature into hospital environments by Graham Cooper

A specific project, Room with a View, for a targeted patient group and the project's medical and wildlife dimensions by Alex Coulter, Dr Alistair Taylor and Dr Peter Scupholme

The individual and personal view of the artist and patient by Gina Glover


Elaine Mead, Director of Service Development, welcomed everyone to Dorset County Hospital and gave the background to Arts in Hospital for those who had not visited before. She introduced Graham Cooper, who is Chairman of Art & Architecture and writes for HD the journal for healthcare design & development. His particular interest is in bringing nature into hospital environment both in this country and in Japan.

The Nature of Health Design

Graham Cooper talked about his Nature of Health Design project and the

Nature of healing Arts panel presentation, which will tour to various hospitals and architecture venues over the next year. While the exhibition is at Exeter Hospital, there will be a day conference, Grounds for Health, on October 4th.

His presentation followed the patient path as mapped out on the panels, with examples of good practice from the UK and Japan. This led the audience through the hospital setting in relation to the surrounding landscape. The welcome at the threshold, interior landscape and pathways, the reception at ward/unit point of entry, the clinical spaces and the gardens were all discussed, with reference to the role nature can play in improving the patient's experience, their quality of life and medical outcomes.

Room with a View

Elaine Mead introduced the three speakers, Alex Coulter, Arts Co-ordinator at Dorset County Hospital; Dr Alistair Taylor, Research Manager at Dorset County Hospital and Dr Peter Scupholme, Chief Executive of the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Alex Coulter spoke about the project Room with a View. This is a summary:

The patients we are particularly focussed on are immuno compromised due to treatment for cancers. They are unable to leave their single rooms for up to two months. They are not able to have a plant or flowers in their room due to infection control. The view from their room is onto a courtyard at 2nd floor level. Room with a View is influenced by the environmental psychologist, Roger Ulrich's research into the effects of viewing nature on medical outcomes. In Arts in Healthcare, the boundaries between the disciplines of art, psychology, therapy and medicine sometimes get blurred. Room with a View may not be clearly Art, but the idea is the result of a creative process in which different threads wove themselves into a new fusion. · The imaginative leap occurred when I heard about the underwater camera at Kimmeridge, which can be viewed live in the Dorset Wildlife Trust marine centre on the beach. - Room with a View is a collaboration between the hospital trust, the Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Fine Family Foundation. Our thanks to Sibyl King for her enthusiasm and belief in the project, which allowed us to go to other funders with the confidence that we had the commitment of the Foundation guaranteed. · Brief explanation of the importance of the Wildlife Trust as a partner, in providing the locations for the cameras at Kimmeridge and Brownsea, where there are wardens.· Video showing taken on March 11th at 11.30am. Explanation of the thinking behind live video streaming rather than recorded video.· Potential for development in other hospitals and therapeutic environments. Thanks to Macmillan Cancer relief and the Elimination of Leukaemia Fund. · SLIDES of different views. Opportunity for consultation with patients and staff over the next few months. · The classic picturesque composition, the eye is led back to the horizon, there is foreground detail and the division of space is probably close to the golden section.· Roger Ulrich showed us an image of a very similar landscape, which has an immediate effect in reducing stress, measured by clinical indicators, in all humans whatever their cultural or racial identity. · With Ethologists in US he has developed an evolutionary theory for this. Not proven but believed that it is genetic, based on early human need for good growing conditions, water and a distant view for security. This adds a fascinating dimension to our theories of a 'good' view.

Slides of various views and the decisions that need to be discussed including human activity, distant , close up, animal/nature interest, night time etc.

Slide of an isolation room, practical considerations, space, re-decoration etc.

Thanks to key members of the hospital staff.

The Medical Research Project

Dr Alistair Taylor then presented the proposed medical research project. He explained the research into the effects of acute stress on immunity. Our group of patients with leukaemia and other blood cancers are susceptible to chronic stress due to the seriousness of their illness, probably compounded by being in isolation. The research will measure the stress hormone levels twice a day in the patient group both with and without Room with a View. There will also be a control group prior to the installation of Room with a View.

The Dorset Wildlife Trust

Dr Peter Scupholme introduced the Dorset Wildlife Trust and talked about how the Room with a View project relates to their aims to widen access to nature. He contrasted this with the Wildlife trust's priority for protecting nature in the past, which had led to a policy of denying access. He also talked about the particular sites where we will have the cameras and the water level of the lagoon at Brownsea, which is designed to encourage the birds, as well as about the underwater camera at Kimmeridge, which has to be taken out to sea by Peter Tinsley, the warden, on a daily basis.

Reach for the Sky

Elaine Mead introduced Gina Glover, a photographic artist and educationalist who has worked in various hospitals, particularly within mental healthcare. Her most recent residency was in the genetics department at Guy's Hospital. Her work is concerned with our relationship to nature.

Gina Glover presented examples of her own work over a number of years as well as images, made by patients, from several different residencies and workshops in psychiatric hospitals. Her personal experience of severe depression provoked by an anti-malaria drug led her to explore her sense of fragility through images of the insides of poly tunnels. The poly tunnel, in which a protective skin of plastic allows fragile and delicate plants to grow, became a metaphor for her own healing. This theme of nature and growth, particularly in gardens, was used by her, both through the physical process of making her own garden as well as through the images she chose to photograph. This work led into a series of nostalgic and timeless pinhole images of children, alone, transfixed by nature. The work on show here, the series of tree tops called 'Reach for the Sky', were made as a result of a residency in St Andrews Psychiatric hospital. Images of artworks by psychiatric patients, which explored themes of nature, including the secret garden, showed how nature can be a conduit for self expression. We will have the opportunity for written feedback from staff, patients and visitors, as a questionnaire will be available during the exhibition.

But in the meantime some informal feedback has been:

Member of staff: In response to the invitation to the event a member of the hospital staff suggested bird boxes should be located around the building, in courtyards.

Artist/curator of Second Nature exhibition (Bridport Arts Centre)Referred to the concept as Eco psychology, which appears to be an area of study/theory out there!

Roger Ulrich, Director of the Texas Healthcare Design Centre and environmental psychologist, response to Room with a View was: 'Your project at Dorset County hospital sounds fascinating, and likely to be of significant benefit in improving the emotional well-being of immunocompromised patients.'

John Wells-Thorpe, former Chairman of an NHS Trust and an architect who recently completed a major research project for NHS Estates on the hospital environment, wrote:' very pleased to receive your note about 'Room with a View' which is just the thing that many of us have been promoting for a long time and it is good to see it coming to fruition.'

A Full House

74 people attended the event plus 9 speakers and helpers.

Hospital staff and Arts in Hospital/RWAV related (19)

Friends of Arts in Hospital (19)

Other NHS/Arts in Health (11)

Artists (10)

General Public (6)

Arts Organisations (5)

Dorset Wildlife trust (4)


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