How a healing environment helps

As recently as a decade ago, a visit to the hospital sometimes meant entering meant entering a cold, synthetic setting. But the tide is changing. A growing body of research indicates that creating what’s commonly called a “healing environment” – with features such as calming music, garden areas, artwork, and access to natural light – can lead to better patient outcomes.

Few people know this better than the patients and families who were deeply involved in the design and planning of Dana-Farber’s Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. They advocated for tapping into the powers of art and nature to foster a serene, welcoming atmosphere,  with features such as:

  • The Thea and James Stoneman Healing Garden, a two-story indoor sanctuary with garden seating, natural stone walls, and seasonal flowers, shrubs, and plants, including shoots of bamboo. Every few weeks, Dana-Farber staff members rotate new flowers and hanging plants into the two-story oasis.
  • The Richard P. and Claire W. Morse Conservatory, which overlooks the healing garden, is a vegetation-free area where patients with fragile immune systems can enjoy a soothing, natural view, free of allergens or other health concerns.
  • A contemporary art collection and audio art tours enable patients and family members to take self-guided tours. The majority of the art collection, which has more than 500 works, is from donations and includes artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Dale Chihuly. The audio tour is also available on the Dana-Farber website for those who are not able to walk around the building or visit in person.
  • Light-filled windows dominate the Yawkey Center’s infusion areas, where patients and family members can spend several hours receiving treatment. In addition to panoramic views of the Boston area, the windows provide exposure to natural light, which can help boost mood-improving serotonin levels.
  • Dana-Farber’s music program invites experienced, volunteer musicians twice a week to play a grand piano located on the second floor of the Yawkey Center’s atrium. While the piano is the centerpiece, vocalists and musicians who play other instruments also participate in the program, which has ties to the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory.