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The Impact of Real and Artificial Plants on the Patient Experience in the Hospital Setting

9 August 2014


Background: Psychological stress and inadequately controlled pain can have a negative effect on wound healing and patient comfort. Prolonged hospital stays and the use of analgesics and anesthetics for anxiety and pain may contribute to increased patient cost and can cause adverse events. Individuals recover more quickly from stress and report less physical discomfort when exposed to a natural environment. Patients with views of nature have been shown to have faster recovery from surgery, and those exposed to a garden environment demonstrate less pain and emotional distress during hospitalization. In this setting, it is prudent to consider: what are the effects of real or artificial plants on the patient experience in a hospital setting?

Methods: An exhaustive search was conducted using Medline-Ovid, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Medline-PubMed using the key words: plants, houseplants, nature, hospital, patient rooms, hospital rooms, stress, anxiety, recovery, and pain. Included studies were assessed using the GRADE criteria.

Results: Four studies were identified meeting search criteria. A randomized clinical trial (RCT) of 90 appendectomy patients assigned to rooms with or without plants found that patients exposed to plants during recovery demonstrated lower anxiety and pain ratings, and reported higher satisfaction with the hospital environment. A second RCT of 80 thyroidectomy patients showed shorter hospitalizations, reduced analgesic intake, higher environment satisfaction, and lower anxiety and pain ratings in patients who viewed plants during recovery. A third study, a RCT of 90 hemorrhoidectomy patients, demonstrated significantly reduced anxiety and pain ratings in patients who had plants placed in their hospital rooms during recovery, with patients rating their rooms as more comfortable. A fourth clinical trial demonstrated lower anxiety rates in patients waiting for imaging studies when plants, either real or images as posters, were present in the waiting rooms. In addition, these patients rated these rooms as more attractive.

Conclusion: The presence of plants in the hospital setting has been shown to reduce patient stress and pain, as well as provide a more satisfying healthcare environment. Patients reported lower levels of anxiety, pain intensity, and pain distress when viewing plants. Rooms containing plants were rated as more attractive, comforting, and satisfying. The addition of live or artificial foliage provides a cost-effective and safe method to improve patient experiences in a hospital setting.


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