integrative spaces

Ease Patient Anxiety by Applying Integrative Space Principles

What are we looking for when we identify a space as having integrative qualities?

  • A place that is generically attractive and pleasant could qualify as an integrative space.
  • A place where patients know where to go, where to wait, and what to expect could be considered integrative.
  • A place that offers inspiration such as artwork or a water feature might also be part of an integrative setting.

Sometimes it’s more than that.

Patients coming to a hospital or clinic are often vulnerable and maybe fearful, sick and compromised in some way. An attractive facility, good signage, and an original oil painting may not alleviate these concerns.

Case in point, last week while I was visiting a friend, a storm blew up in our area. In order to alleviate her dog’s anxiety, she put a thunder vest on him to keep him calm. I had heard of anxiety vests being used for people with autism for fear reduction but a dog vest was new to me. Coincidentally, earlier that evening my friend had just talked about her difficult job situation during which she said there were days when she’d come home, crawl into bed and “assume the fetal position.”

This is similar to the concept of wrapping a fussy baby snugly in a blanket to provide a sense of security. In times of stress and fear, being tightly held or having the perception of being held could make a difficult situation better. There seems to be comfort in contraction.

Could these contracting ideas be implemented in a healthcare facility to alleviate the high levels of anxiety a patient may be experiencing? Here are some possible ways to provide a “thunder vest:”

  • Smaller waiting areas so the space doesn’t feel so large,
  • Chairs with arms and a high back to cradle a patient,
  • Exam rooms that are less stark and more engaging,
  • Large windows that don’t overwhelm a patient but are scaled appropriately, and
  • Patient rooms that have a home-y feel.

In a healthcare facility, an integrative space should not just provide beauty, function, and inspiration– — but also be a security blanket that hopefully alleviates some serious concerns.