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Old curiosity shop: view with a room

Why do we take flowers to someone in hospital? Grapes, yes - something for the visitor to eat. But flowers? They just look nice. But perhaps that is the point. For a person stuck in a hospital bed something nice to look at may be just the ticket. This was demonstrated by a classic retrospective study which investigated whether the view through a window influenced recovery from surgery [1].


Patients undergoing cholecystectomy in a Pennsylvania hospital had postoperative care on one of two floors, with rooms which looked at either a brown brick wall, or a small stand of deciduous trees. Rooms were essentially identical apart from the view, and records were only examined for the period in the year when there were leaves on the trees.

Patient records were matched for all sorts of possible confounding factors, and then the 23 pairs of patient records were given to an experienced nurse to abstract information on number of days in hospital, analgesic and drug history, complications, and nurses' comments on patients' wellbeing.


Patients with the tree view spent one day fewer in hospital, used predominantly oral analgesics after the first day (and had less than half of the number of injections), and had many fewer negative comments on their postoperative progress from nurses caring from them (1 per patient compared with 4 per patient for the brick wall view). All these were statistically significant at the 1 in 100 level. Postoperative complications were lower in tree view patients, but not significantly so.


'Overall package of care' is one of those interesting comments one sees in reports of all sorts. Very often we try to untangle the package to see which of its components is important - but if we don't know what is important, how do we know what to test?

This is a problem in all sorts of circumstances, but a result like this is quite possibly transferable to other situations. We know that patients of friendly dentists do better, so what about those who have flowers in hospital?


  1. RS Ulrich. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science 1983 224:420-1.

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