Hospital gift shops are more than a source of revenue—floral gifts enable hospitals and loved ones to positively influence patient outcomes. Exposed to plants and flowers, patients have experienced faster recovery times, greater tolerance for pain, and reported higher rates of satisfaction with their hospital stay.
One randomized clinical trial found that flowers can be useful in healthcare settings: After abdominal surgery, patients assigned to rooms with flowering plants on average used less pain medication, had lower blood pressure and expressed higher satisfaction than patients in rooms without plants, according to a 2008 study of 90 patients in HortTechnology, one of the journals of the American Society for Horticultural Science.
Contact With Flowering Plants Directly Benefits Patients’ Health
Decades ago, a groundbreaking study by Roger S. Ulrich at the University of Delaware became the foundation for our understanding of how flowers and plants influence outcomes. The study found that “surgical patients assigned to rooms with windows looking out on a natural scene had shorter postoperative hospital stays” than those in rooms with windows that faced a brick wall.
Faster recovery time wasn’t the only benefit; patients in garden view rooms took fewer analgesics and received fewer negative comments in nurses’ notes, indicating that patients may have been more satisfied with their hospital experience than their ‘brick wall’ counterparts.
Since that study, several others have emerged supporting the idea that people exposed to plants or a natural environment recover more quickly from stress, showing improved psychological, emotional and cognitive health.
Plants Improve Pain Tolerance — Flowering Plants Are Even Better
While most patients won’t have the benefit of a garden view, pain tolerance can be significantly improved by the presence of plants in the room. The same study concluded that “adding flowering plants had more positive effects in pain tolerance time, pain intensity, and pain distress.”
A complementary approach to routine analgesia, nature sights and sounds were found to reduce pain when shown to patients before, during and after flexible bronchoscopy procedures.
It’s a simple truth that patients are often uplifted when receiving a gift of a floral arrangement or plant at their bedside. But the psychological effect on their healing continues beyond those first moments. Researchers in several studies assessed the impact of nature and plants on health, concluding that "people-plant interactions provide physiological stress reduction."
It’s important to counter sources of stress “with positive distractions that have soothing effects to stimulate and encourage healing during hospitalizations. Viewing nature or having plants present has been considered an effective positive distraction that may provide ample involuntary attention, increase positive feelings, block or reduce worrisome thoughts, and promote restoration from stress.”
Compared to those in rooms without plants, patients in another study expressed higher satisfaction and more positive feelings about their hospital rooms. According to the study, “introducing plants and flowers into a hospital room during the recovery period had a positive influence linking directly to health outcomes of surgical patients. Patients exposed to plants had significantly less need for analgesics, enhanced physiological responses, lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue.”
Safety, Gifts and Flowers: Promoting Best Practices for Delivery
For patients to experience these therapeutic benefits, hospitals should optimize their gift shop delivery systems, by making a wide variety of floral arrangements available and training delivery staff to prevent the spread of infection.
Before Floral Delivery
Make sure your online gift shop offers a wide selection of floral arrangements and flowering plants for delivery. A hospital’s website should advertise the online shop prominently, and provide patients’ visitors with printed instructions on how to access the online gift shop at information desks and in the on-site gift shop.
Receiving and Staging
Hospitals should designate an in-house receiving and staging area, or section of shipping and receiving department, staffed with trained flower and gift delivery personnel.
Hospitalgiftshop.com, the nation’s largest online floral delivery service, recommends stocking the staging area with disinfecting wipes and providing a source for fresh water. Before delivering floral arrangements to a room, the water should be changed, and the outside of the vase disinfected.
Train delivery personnel in hand cleaning, sanitizing vases and other techniques critical to preventing the spread of infection. Delivery staff should disinfect their hands regularly, limit touching or handling mobile phones and refrain from delivering flowers if they are unwell.
Always Check With Nurses
Train staff to check with clinicians prior to delivery regarding individual patient allergies to plants or flowers. The safety check should include other patients who may share the room. Delivery of flowers should never interfere with nurses’ or doctors’ work.
The therapeutic benefits of floral arrangements and plants are well documented, making it easy to see how they serve hospitals as more than a source of revenue. Fresh cut flowers and plants not only brighten a patient’s day, they influence outcomes.
To maximize health benefits for patients, create an expansive, well-run system for delivering flowers and plants, make sure your vendors provide a wide array of floral designs and ensure 24/7 access to online ordering.