Waterscapes in Healthcare Settings


Hospitals treat every kind of person, and every kind of person means every kind of personal taste.

Normally a person’s taste doesn’t matter for much in a hospital setting, where biology and physiology are the primary concern. However, taste can matter when considering the benefits of art on the healing process. 

Adding art to healthcare settings has huge benefits including reduced stress, improved recovery, and shorter hospital stays.

But, there are rules. You don’t want to adorn your walls with imagery that irritates or creates confusion in the brains of your patients.

Reactions to abstract art, for example, can depend immensely on personal taste, as well as the mood of the viewer, and generally aren't recommended for a healing atmosphere (read more about this in Nature Imagery Vs Abstract Art in Healthcare).

Since healthcare facilities treat everyone, you need something that will please everyone, even subconsciously. Nature photography is a great choice, because nature (as a subject) has a universal appeal.


Even in nature photography we must be somewhat selective. The scene should invoke a calm, safe feeling, and bring associations of new life or thriving environments. No thrashing waves, dark storms, or threatening animals – these can actually have a negative impact on healing.

I once went to the Oregon coast and stayed in a room with a large framed picture of a grey-washed sky over a single jagged rock jutting out of the ocean. Turbulent water filled the background, and a wave had just exploded against the rock, sending white shards of water everywhere. It was an impressive shot, but left me feeling cold, isolated, and unwelcome in Nature’s wrath. Avoid trapping your patient in this kind of atmosphere!


One of my favorite subjects for healing is calm, flowing water. Life and water are closely associated, as water is, after all, necessary for all life.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, a peaceful stream flowing through glistening rocks and surrounded by thriving plant life reminds us of our precious summers.

Waterfalls are often the goals of hikes in the Gorge, or camping in the forests. There we find a place to breathe the fresh misty air, and get a sense of movement and continuation.

Still water can be equally therapeutic – especially clear, reflective water surrounded by serene docks, forests, beaches or fields. I recommend scenes where the viewer can imagine themselves standing right there.

In a prolonged stay at a hospital, exposure to these sorts of tranquil scenes have been shown to have major health benefits. They help to lower psychological, behavioral, and physiological effects of stress, including a reduced intake of pain medication, a calmer disposition, lower blood pressure, and more positive perceptions of the hospital experience generally.

Take a look at my images of rivers, lakes, and oceans and decide which are best for your healing space!