I can't get this thought out of my head since I went to visit a family member at the hospital recently. She has been in in-patient care on and off for almost a year as she fights some shitty, shitty cancer. Rachel and I happened to be in the Poconos during her most recent hospital stint, an we were able to visit her on our way back to Philadelphia. To get to her room, we took the "Pool Elevator." I was really excited that the hospital had a pool until I realized that "Pool" was the last name of the family that donated money to build the hospital wing. We were in the Pool Pavilion. But that got me thinking:
Why isn't there a pool here?
And why isn't there a nice restaurant? And, while we are asking the tough questions, why isn't there a self-serve soft serve ice cream machine in the hospital?
Certainly, the most important part of a hospital is its care-giving. It makes sense to me that money should pay for machines and medicine that make patients better before it pays for an arcade room. At the same time, there are loads of studies that show that good hospital design reduce stress and fatigue and increase effectiveness in delivering care. My ex-girlfriend did this fascinating study which revealed that allowing very sick children in hospital isolation units to spend time with adults who were not covered in protective gear (in other words: skin-to-skin contact that is typically not allowed in the isolation units) actually increased the children's rate of recovery. Being in a hospital is not just about the medical treatments, it is also about the environment.
I also think - based on absolutely no research or fact - that making hospitals feel more like hotels would be good for the hospitals finances, no? There is a captive market living in the hospital that deserves more than one silly Starbucks in the lobby and a gift shop. In addition, that captive market is drawing in visitors who would love to take their hospital-dwelling friends and family to a movie or a restaurant if there was one within the hospital. The hospital could make bank on these amenities!
So let's see some damn pools! Here are some examples of hospitals around the world that are creating special spaces to enhance your hospital stay.
1.) Check out the therapy pool in Toronto's Holland Bloorview Children's Rehabilitation Hospital. They offer recreational or instructional programs seven days a week. Their aquatic programs are fully integrated and open to everyone. Holland Bloorview’s inpatient population participates in the aquatics programs twice a week. Parents and families of inpatients also have the chance to use the pool during our Family Swim times. Also, it's gorgeous.
2.) This is the stunning lobby to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Listen, hospitals are scary and weird, and having a beautiful, giant rainbow greet you when you walk in the door is the least you can do to comfort a sick kid and his worried family.
3.) Speaking of lobbies - the lobby of the Hôpital européen Georges-Pompidou in Paris actually does look like a cruise ship. The palm trees and tropical plants are relaxing and create lovely areas for patients to walk through that are reminiscent of a Parisian garden. Notice the open umbrellas on the right side of the hall. There is a cafe with "terrace" seating right in the lobby (as well as a news stand and a juice bar) that makes the whole space feel even more like the city outside the hospital walls.
4.) Staying in Paris for a second, patients at the Hopital St. Louis can explore the volumes in a library that really takes advantage of the old building's lovely architecture. The library offers novels, comics, magazines, cook books, and travel logs as well as movies and CDs that patients can borrow. There is also a substantial section of medical books that allow patients to understand their conditions better. The library also offers author events, expositions, and concerts. For patients that are unable to leave their rooms to get to the library, they can call and have books and media brought to their room.
The Hopital St. Louis also has a museum of historic, creepy casts on its campus that is open to the public. It is sort of an awesome hospital.
5.) Perhaps the most important thing hospitals can add to their campuses is a dining experience that does not remind you of a high school cafeteria. There is a reason that this hospital-themed restaurant in Latvia is now shuttered: no one wants to eat in a hospital.
And then there is the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in Michigan that grows a chunk of its restaurant's food in its on-campus hydroponic greenhouse. The resident hospital farmers not only grows organic produce and hosts a public farmers market at the hospital, they also host healthy cooking workshops and use gardening as behavioral therapy. The greenhouse is a tool to explore how food and health are connected, and it makes eating at the hospital a whole lot nicer for everyone.
6.) Being sick is terrible. I have never been in a hospital long-term, but I imagine some of the worst parts of being there is the sense of isolation from the well world and being forced to stick to a routine that is full of painful treatments and fairly devoid of pleasure. A new initiative in Belgium is creating screening rooms in hospitals where patients can watch movies together. The program's director says that “along with the physical aspect, rehabilitation also means social integration. By giving culture to patients, we’re also giving them a piece of normal life. It means patients can discuss something other than their therapy and the hospital."
Studies show that art is important to healing because it causes patients to be more optimistic, experience less anxiety and loneliness, and better communicate about their emotions and concerns. The Allentown Art Museum has been partnering with the Lehigh Valley Health Network to get paintings into patients' rooms for these reasons.
It is clear that the hospital environment has a physical effect on the healing that happens there. I say there should be more good food, more food art, and more creepy cast museums across the board.