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Say the words “hospital room” and most people picture harsh fluorescent lighting, industrial white walls and echoey tile floors — an environment that doesn’t exactly promote rest and healing. But Minnesota hospital leaders who recognize that a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere can support a speedy recovery are rethinking the way patient rooms look and feel. Here’s a sample of changes that they’ve made to reduce stress by creating homey rooms.

Pet therapy

Some hospitals, including Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, keep dogs and bunnies to provide informal pet therapy. The animals make the rounds, visiting patients in their rooms, as a way to reduce anxiety about being in the hospital. “You feel better when you’re petting a soft golden retriever,” says Joy Johnson-Lind, senior director of child and family services at Children’s.

Rooms with a view

Recognition of the healing power of nature has led many hospitals to offer rooms with views of natural settings. At Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury, patients can gaze out their windows over a garden or wetlands, where they may spy deer and wild turkeys.

Interior makeovers

As hospitals redesign rooms, they tuck cabinets holding medical supplies out of view of patients. They add art to the walls. And they minimize overhead fluorescent lighting, which can prevent rest, to maximize natural light. Roxanna Gapstur, president of Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, says its location close to Minnehaha Creek offers soft light from outside. “It’s something that can transport you to a nicer place,” Gapstur says.

A personal touch

Hospitals encourage patients to bring belongings from home — stuffed animals, a favorite quilt, photos of loved ones, or a pair of well-worn pajamas — to increase comfort during their stay.

The ‘shhh’ factor

Carpeted hallways, ceiling tiles that reduce noise, and the elimination of the sound of overhead pages to hospital staff that often interrupts patients’ sleep — these are a few ways hospitals are focusing on making hospital rooms quieter. “Five years ago, there would be a lot of overhead paging in the room,” says Lia Christiansen, vice president of hospital operations for HealthEast. “Noise in the background becomes a distraction. We don’t have that anymore.” Physicians are paged directly, and nurses now wear devices to alert them when a patient is buzzing for help.

Soothing color palette

Sterile white paint is giving way to colors believed to have a calming effect. Browns, blues and greens all evoke nature and are used at many local hospitals, including Maple Grove Hospital. “There is a science around certain colors that produce more anxiety than others,” says Andy Cochrane, CEO of the hospital. “We paid attention to colors and finishes. You see more wood finishes and soft colors.”

Guests welcome

Many hospitals now outfit rooms with sofa beds to allow a family member to sleep over. “Intuitively, we know that coming into the hospital is anxiety-producing and worrisome,” Christiansen says. “Usually some of these homelike environments can ease a patient’s mind as they adapt to that space.”