As the health care atmosphere changes, there has been a growing interest to closely examine how spirituality, values, and morals contribute to patient outcomes; specifically what it means to truly heal a patient. In the past, medical care was mostly geared towards curing our patients and their illnesses physically. More recently, researchers have begun to investigate the psychological factors that contribute to a patient’s overall health and wellness in an attempt to provide more holistic medical care.
To truly heal a person, it has been recognized that the medical field must incorporate the mind, body, and spirit when caring for patients in order to provide an atmosphere where patients can feel comfortable, safe, and at peace. Several hospitals throughout the United States, recognized as Healing Hospitals, have embraced this concept in an effort to promote healing both externally and internally for each patient individually, in an effort to achieve a more holistic approach to current medical care.
A Healing Hospital works to provide an environment that promotes peace and tranquility in order to address the spiritual and emotional needs of their patients in addition to providing state of the art medical care and treatment. “Among other things, they’re taking to heart ideas from environmental psychology, sociology, geography, architecture, interior design, nursing, medicine, and public health research that demonstrate how specific design changes in health care environments can reduce stress and alleviate the physical outcomes associated with it” (Zborowsky & Kreitzer, 2008).
These hospitals operate based on three key components that work together to address a patient’s spiritual needs throughout the healing process. The first component consists of creating a physical environment that promotes peace and tranquility. “True healing environments are constructed in ways that help patients and families cope with the stresses of illness, and are free from overhead paging, in-room intercoms, loud machines rolling down hallways or voices calling to each other at the nurse’s station” (Eberst, 2008).
Specific color schemes and architectural designs are also taken into account during the construction of these hospitals that promote feelings of calmness and serenity for patients, families, and medical staff. The second component requires that state of the art, modern medical technology is utilized so that hospital staff are able to work more efficiently. This technology also ensures that patients are guaranteed privacy and protection of their medical records so that they also feel a sense of reassurance and security.
The last component of a healing hospital is crucial to providing holistic medical care; the philosophy of Radical Loving Care. Hospital employees use this concept to promote culturally sensitive, compassionate care that values the spiritual and emotional needs of each patient, along with the physical needs as well. Relationships between hospital staff, patients, and their families are considered to be of utmost importance in order to enhance feelings of trust, understanding, and respect.
In creating a healing environment, hospitals face barriers that must be addressed in order to maintain an atmosphere that operates based on the theory of Radical Loving Care. One such barrier many hospitals face is the lack of proper funds that are needed to construct an external environment that promotes healing. Gardens, spacious floor plans, private rooms, artwork, color schemes, and overall changes to architectural designs are crucial in establishing a healing atmosphere for patients and their families.
It can be challenging for hospitals that try to make these changes to their external environment in that remodeling and rebuilding can be quite expensive and time consuming. However, there are some organizations available to hospitals that want to make changes, such as The Center for Health Design. This organization works with hospitals in order to help them manage construction and the financial obstacles that they encounter throughout the process.
The Center “suggests that evidence-based design positively impacts the following factors in healthcare organizations: patient-related outcomes, staff satisfaction, quality, safety, operational efficiency, and financial performance” (Kreitzer, 2012). Another barrier to promoting a healing atmosphere deals with hospital staff and their commitment to the Radical Loving Care philosophy. A Healing Hospital must hire employees who value the spiritual aspect to patient care, and this can be problematic due to nursing shortages.
Staff members must not only be competent in reference to medical skills and knowledge, but they must also understand the importance of respecting and adhering to the Healing Hospital’s mission and values. It takes a special person to meet the requirements needed to maintain a healing environment, so these hospitals but choose their employees wisely. Lastly, a third obstacle Healing Hospitals encounter after creating a healing atmosphere, is how to maintain this environment.
Maintaining “a patient-friendly environment is a challenge, especially since patients come in all sizes and from all cultures” (Geimer-Flanders, 2009). As health care changes, so do the needs and desires of the patient population. Different cultures view the health care environment differently, and often times associate it with stress, fear, and anxiety. It can be a daunting task for Healing Hospitals to attempt to meet the needs of each patient and culture, so it is necessary to change the surroundings and delivery of health care accordingly.
The introduction of “blended medicine” can help hospitals to adapt to patients from different cultures in that this concept works to combine traditional, western medicine philosophies with complementary and alternative techniques to medical care. This process allows patients to receive new, innovative medical treatments while including cultural beliefs and practices for each patient individually in hopes that this can enhance healing, promote a stress-free environment, and increase patient satisfaction. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22, English Standard Version, 2013). This passage of scripture supports the concept of a Healing Hospital’s values in that it implies that spirituality has an everlasting effect on how patients perceive their experiences with medical care. If health care providers do not address the emotional and spiritual needs of patients, then they are by definition, never truly healed.
This student recognizes the need to reform health care delivery so that we make patients feel positive about their hospital experience while also ensuring that their relationships with health care providers are memorable ones that leave a lasting impression of love, compassion, and respect for each patient, their family, and the surrounding community. Healing Hospitals are setting new standards for the health care industry and calling attention to the positive outcomes associated with care that is focused on the spiritual needs of the patient population.
Evidence suggests that by adopting the Healing Hospital’s philosophy, “patient healing and staff satisfaction leads to measurable outcomes such as reductions in length of stay, use of pain medication, medical mistakes, and cost of care” (Geimer-Flanders, 2009). These findings remind us that health care is not simply defined by curative care, but should include spirituality and culture in an effort to enhance healing and promote positive, memorable experiences for patients, staff, and the community as a whole.