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Healing Hospitals

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“The cure of the part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole. No attempt should be made to cure the body without the soul. Let no one persuade you to cure the head until he has first given you his soul to be cured, for this is the great error of our day, that physicians first separate the soul from the body.” -Plato

Most hospitals today focus mainly on technology, medical interventions and treating symptoms of a disease. Care can be a very impersonal experience as patients are carted from examination room to operating table to recovery room with very little interaction afforded to them by the physician. With monitor alarms beeping continuously in the halls to alert distant and unavailable staff of problems or potential problems patient lie in their hospital bed in a state of constant stress. At the end of their stay they are handed a set of written discharge instructions, a list of alarming things to be wary of that could happen to them after they have gone home, and a prescription note to fill at their local pharmacy. In sum this practice dehumanizes patients. They become items that are processed through a system where money is made. The faster the processing the better, but at what cost? This is why Healing hospitals have begun surfacing around the country that supports the ideal of compassionate care. Healing hospitals strive to reduce the mechanical aspect of the industry by incorporating technology into the background while still remaining on the cutting edge of advances in science.

At Mercy Gilbert Hospital, Gilbert AZ., a top notch healing hospital, they believe that healing is not the same thing as curing, where the definition of curing has traditionally meant problem patching, disease eliminating, and symptom treating. People do not necessarily have to be cured to become healed, where healing means finding peace within oneself in spite of one’s condition. Interestingly, a person can be cured from a disease but not be healed. For example, a 28 year old post-operative testicular cancer patient received news that all the cancerous lesions have been removed but is grieving and angry at the world because treatment has left him physically altered and unable to ever produce children one day. So, it is the goal of Mercy Gilbert Hospital to unite body, mind, and spirit. Simply by reducing the amount of anxiety a patient feels while in the hospital can have amazing positive influence on recovery. The Healing Hospital concept embraces three key components. First, healing hospitals must have a healing physical environment. The goal here is to manage stress for patients and families by reducing noise and distractions.

Quiet environments are provided to optimize the beneficial effects that sleep has on healing. In a laboratory sleep study, recorded hospital sounds of overhead paging, IV alarms, squeaky carts, and the like disrupted sleep and raised heart rates, Orfeu M. Buxton, PhD, of Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues reported (Buxtin, 2012). The surroundings are also visually pleasing. Special effort is made to take away the appearance of actually being in a hospital, which is psychologically linked with stressful situations in many people’s minds. By removing the association, healing hospitals provide and environment for ideal healing processes to take place. The following aspect of healing hospitals is the incorporation of work design and technology. Hospital workers are more efficient when technology is optimized to meet the most people’s needs. Such benefits of efficiency are increased privacy and security for the patients. Technology allows the hospital to provide the best possible care that can be provided. The third and most essential constituent of a healing hospital is accepting and integrating the concept of Radical Loving Care, a philosophy advocated by author Erie Chapman.

By integrating this concept, healthcare workers are reminded of why they went into healthcare to begin with. While the idea of a healing hospital may look good in the conceptual phase there are many challenges that stand in the way of creating such an environment. Converting today’s traditional hospital setting into a healing environment involves a huge financial investment on the part of the facility. Healing environments require specialized low-profile technology. They also require specialized recruitment and training. This extra financial investment on the part of the facility ensures that the hospital’s physical atmosphere has been thoroughly incorporated with the idea of healing. As healing environments provide loving and compassionate care hospitals must work to change the mindset of hospital workers, and add to the skillsets and the culture of medical practitioners. Current medical environments are hyper-focused on the thorough analysis of cost saving so persuading hospital administration to accept such costly developments may prove to be a formidable undertaking. The ideals of the healing hospital are grounded in the teachings of Jesus.

For example, the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to have compassion on others. In parable form, Jesus spoke regarding a traveler going from Jerusalem to Jericho. Thieves ambushed him, stole his belongings and garments, beat him, and then abandoned him for dead. A priest, who saw the injured traveler lying on the roadside, did nothing but continue on his way. A Levite walking by had no mercy either and continued on his way. A Samaritan, from a people that was looked down up by the Jews, saw the hurt man and had compassion on him. The Samaritan tended to his wounds, dressed them up with bandages, and then put the man on his own donkey.

The Samaritan brought him to an inn and took care of him there (Luke 10:25-37). Healing hospitals believe that providing compassionate care to individuals is something that comes from the heart of the provider, much like the true intentions of the Good Samaritan. It is honest and not about money. Those that provide care go the extra mile to meet people’s needs and have vested interest in the hospital’s core values, mission, and vision. The compassionate care provided by healing hospitals is united in a chain from the top of the organization down to each member of the healthcare team and includes the patient at the end.


Mercy Gilbert Hospital, Gilbert AZ. (Catholic Healthcare West.) Laurie Eberst, CEO http://www.mercygilbert.org Buxton OM, et al “Sleep disruption due to hospital noises: a prospective evaluation” Ann Intern Med 2012; 156. Retrieved from https://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1305530 Luke 10:25-37 New International Version (NIV) Retrieved from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV

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