Distraction therapy: Hospital room designs help ease tension
There is a reason to stare at these walls.
They bring solace when you are in a not-so-comforting surrounding — a hospital exam area or treatment room.
Dreamakur — an affiliate of Endagraph, a custom-graphics company based in Export — created and installed colorful artwork of relaxing scenes for local hospital rooms.
The rooms' designs are developed to instill happiness and relaxation through the art of distraction therapy.
The most recent project involved cancer-treatment rooms at Magee-Women's Hospital in Oakland.
Six of the 22 rooms were transformed into an outdoor scene complete with butterflies, trees, blue skies and grass — a soothing picture to help people take their mind off their medical issue, if just for a few minutes. The project was funded through “Random Acts of Kimpton Kindness,” by the newly opened Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, Downtown.
The company partnered with Jim Nash, president at Dreamakur, to transform treatment rooms into a fantasy wonderland inside the cancer wing.
The floor-to-ceiling decorative mural is the grand finale of the hotel's campaign that served to introduce local Pittsburghers to the essence of Kimpton — personal experiences that put a smile on guests' faces.
“People don't want to look at plain walls or medical equipment,” says Judy Herstine, program administrator for women's cancer services at Magee. “Some patients spend a lot of time here, so this really helps.”
The Magee treatment area was transformed over a weekend by Nash and his team. The fact the hotel wanted to pay for the project is incredible, Herstine says.
“It shows a commitment of partnering and that they want to be a part of the Pittsburgh community,” Herstine says. “It was nice of the hotel to think of us and to help us make the patient experience even better.”
Susan Randolph, director of sales and marketing for the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, says Pittsburgh has an amazing community spirit, and the hotel wants to be a part of that.
“We want to be a part of this wonderful city,” she says. “I love the idea of the scenes for the treatment rooms. My father passed away from colon cancer, and he had to sit in a dreary hospital room for chemotherapy. I lost a friend to breast cancer who was in her mid-30s, so this hits home with me. Distraction therapy is an amazing thing. Patients are scared, and if we can do something to ease their mind and distract them and put a smile on their face, then we will do it. It's also about paying it forward.”
This wasn't a first for Nash, who has been taking exam rooms at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in Lawrenceville and creating a fun space for the little ones who are treated there. He has created enchanted forests, beaches and treehouses.
“Jim was above and beyond the others I considered,” says Liz Munsch, director of facilities and maintenance at Children's. “I really wanted to create distraction rooms, and he was both creative and flexible in helping us create what we wanted. It was a perfect match. He really worked with us. He has so many talents, and his rooms are good for both little and big kids. It's a space for them to get away from it for a little bit.”
She and Nash started with the rooms where procedures were being done such as MRIs and CT scans and eventually expanded the project to exam rooms. Some of the tests done at the hospital require limited stimulation so they don't want patients to be watching television or working on a computer. Having a calming surrounding works to get the test done quickly and properly. She says she wants to have Nash create other spaces at some of the hospital's satellite locations.
“These rooms help relax the child and their parents, as well,” Munsch says. “It creates a warm feeling. The kids want that room, and it's comforting for everybody.”
The product used to create the scenes is pressure sensitive vinyl — like wallpaper — that also is easily cleanable, which is a top priority, Munsch says. The cost varies depending on the space and the design as well as installation. Some of the rooms at Children's were covered through donations, Munsch says.
“Our focus and goal is to create an environment that promotes harmony and heals the mind, body and spirit,” Nash says. “We've discovered that these environments provide the first impression of the health-care experience. Our room transformations have proven to help reduce the patients' anxiety and stress levels, which, in turn, expedites the healing process, as well as their physical and psychological comfort.”
It really does lower the stress level, says Dr. Paul Friday, chief of clinical psychology at UPMC Shadyside. Certain colors and those kinds of scenes help reduce the level of cortisol.
If you can minimize that level, you will feel better, and, then, the procedure goes much easier. It's a form of lay hypnosis by trying something manipulative to create a positive feeling to take away from the metal being shoved into your vein or the chemical being pumped into you.
It helps counteract the flight response when you walk into an exam or MRI room, which can be very scary. So, if you can lower a person's blood pressure while they look at fluffy white clouds and blue sky, then that will help everyone involved. Friday says this type of distraction is expanding to all of the senses from playing music to adding certain smells to help calm a person.
“This should be done more often in hospitals and other medical facilities and offices,” Friday says. “Because it's proven to be effective, and anything we can do to help relax and calm patients we should do.”
The goal is to create an environment where the individual feels like he or she is someplace else other than a hospital,” Nash says. “We wanted the kids to look at something other than the needle being put in their arm. And we always talk to the kids about what they like about the room so we know for future rooms what to keep and what to change. We believe this is helping to make a difference.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7889.