How to Reduce Stress & Anxiety in the Emergency Department

How to Reduce Stress & Anxiety in the Emergency Department

By Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D., President & CEO, Healing HealthCare Systems

Visiting an Emergency Department (ED), whether as a patient or the family member is dreaded for so many reasons. First, of all, an emergency is frightening and immediate, causing all sorts of stress. Second, it may take hours and hours to be seen and treated. Third, other people there may be in worse shape, which can be unpleasant to witness.

The design of the waiting area, which includes the quality and placement of seating, layout, lighting, and the presence or absence of positive distractions, makes a critical difference in the patient and family experience of the ED.

Research funded by The Center of Health Design points to environmental stressors contributing to stress and anxiety in the ED. The study looked at the ED environments in the Ben Taub General Hospital and Memorial Hermann Memorial in Houston, Texas, before and after an art intervention.

Researchers found a significant decrease in restless behavior — including pacing, fidgeting, and stretching when canvas art and plasma screens displaying a slide show of nature images and window films were present.

Televisions in EDs are often turned to commercial programming, offering up the news of the day, which may include disturbing content. Violence on television has been shown to increase anxiety and fear and can trigger PTSD symptoms. On the other hand, serene images on digital video screens can change the mood of the ED, providing a positive distraction that calms and soothes patients and family members.

A pilot study at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego (NMCSD) found that nature and music had a measurable positive impact on mental health outpatients in waiting areas. Using C.A.R.E. nature and music programming, they assessed perceived “pleasantness” of waiting rooms with TVs tuned to daytime television and those playing music and nature programming.

We are pleased to partner with Eco Digital Media (EDM) to offer C.A.R.E. Programming on digital video screens in the ED. Combined with EDM’s custom content that offers information specific to each hospital (answers to common questions, current local weather, etc.), C.A.R.E. adds a rich dimension to the ED experience.

Our flagship program, The C.A.R.E. Channel, is now in its 27th year being broadcast in over 900 hospitals in the U.S. and abroad. Combining peaceful scenes of nature with beautiful music, C.A.R.E. Programming is a welcome alternative to commercial television and disturbing sounds.   Based on research that connects the use of music and nature to patient outcomes, C.A.R.E. is appropriate for patients in diverse states of acuity, transcending issues of age, gender, and culture.

Providing beauty, access to the larger natural world, and soothing music, C.A.R.E. Programming comforts and cares for patients and families are comforted during the ED waiting time.

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