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Transforming the Healing Environment
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The story of BEDSCAPES is a personal one. A wise person once said that life if not what happens to you; rather it's what you do with what happens to you! And that's how this story begins.

I created BEDSCAPES from my own experiences as a hospitalized patient and as a significant caregiver for my parents. In my family's experience, the technical know how of the doctors was first rate but the environments we received our care in were not helpful for our healing and comfort.

These settings were stressful for us. The surroundings were unpleasant - sterile, unfriendly and unfamiliar. We totally lacked privacy. And we had no control of traffic in and out of the room and the sounds all around us. It was clear to us that the space we were in did not belong to us.

I later came to realize that we were having an experience similar to what refugees go through - of being a stranger in a strange land.

Both of my parents loved nature and loved to travel and do nature photography. My dad won many awards for his photographic work. But when they were hospitalized, they were separated from the nature they loved so much and from the familiar things of "normal life."

From these experiences, I decided to do work that made a difference in the experiences of patients. Initially, because of my behavioral science background, I intended to train physicians in how to communicate better with their patients. As the work evolved, I decided to create improvements in the bedside environments so that patients would begin to feel a sense of "place" and of their own "space" and have an environment that helped them to relax in.

I was fortunate in finding the work of Roger Ulrich, PhD, which showed that patients with views of nature had better health outcomes than those who looked out at brick walls. I got in touch with Dr. Ulrich, who generously taught me how to choose nature scenes that were "biophilic" i.e. likely to tap a restorative response in people. I then found a way to get photomurals of these scenes indelibly printed on fabric that could then be hung on a cubicle curtain. I was again fortunate in being able to find a printing process that created images that were both launderable and fire retardant. Very fortunate! And thus, BEDSCAPES were born.

I introduced BEDSCAPES to the world at the Symposium on Healthcare Design in 1996. Fortune struck again - they won the "Best of Competition" in the Nightingale Awards and First Prize in the Healthcare Design Competition. They are now in over 50 hospitals and nursing homes around the United States in a wide variety of settings. They have already shown great clinical potential in several scientific studies (see Research).

What I've observed as I've seen BEDSCAPES used all over the United States, is that the benefits start within seconds! People experience a relaxing effect; family members and staff observe it. It's palpable! And the effect is created without using any medications!!

My own vision is to create a "healing cocoon" or comfort zone around every patient in every bed in every healthcare setting in the world. Fortunately that vision is being shared by many others - the natural childbirth movement, hospice, Planetree, etc.

At the December 2000 Symposium on Healthcare Design, I chaired the Patient's Bedside Experience track. There was considerable interest among the participating healthcare architects, designers and facilities administrators in forming a virtual community of people with a passion for improving these environments. We are beginning to build that community now with the launch of the Healing Bedside Environments Network.

The vision is also going forward with BETH (Bedside Environments That Heal), a non-profit demonstration project under the auspices of the Tides Center. It's first site is the Bellevue Medical Center in New York City. Funded through the generosity of Laurance and Richard Rockefeller and the United Hospital Fund, BETH focuses on the wellness of patients and front-line staff. It will help the staff improve their own respite areas and then help them apply their learnings and insights to the improvement of their patients' bedside settings. The project is also being generously supported through the voluntary efforts of members of the architecture and design community.

Many current trends in healthcare seem to be going in our direction. These include the growing interest in evidence-based design, the focus on the patient's and family's actual health care experience, an increasing recognition of the mind/body connection, and an increased willingness to address quality of life issues. Allies in this direction now include the regulators, e.g. the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

I welcome you as an ally and invite you to be in touch with me directly to help move this exciting agenda forward.

Yosaif August, President and CEO, Bedscapes/Healing Environments International, Inc.

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