In response to a request from staff to ameliorate sterile environments, a series of flora and fauna watercolour paintings, transferred to decal, have been installed in patient facing areas across St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney (SVHS).

The recent renovation of the Emergency Department(ED) at SVHS in Darlinghurst, connects ED, Psychiatric and Drug and Alcohol services to better manage and treat the complexity of patients presenting to ED. With a heavy focus on prioritising safety measures, the rooms have been designed in a minimalist way, with stark white walls and weighted “no-throw” furniture.

Outpatient Transfusion Rooms

Staff approached the Director of Mission and Inclusive Health and the art curator in the hope artworks could be added to create a more welcoming environment. Traditional artworks were not possible due to the potential to be weaponised and difficult to clean, so decals were suggested as a means to add imagery while meeting clinical and risk restrictions.

It was decided to use plant imagery on the decals after reviewing the research on the inclusion of biophilia in the health setting. This research conclusively shows the benefits, but clinical and practical requirements do not often allow the incorporation of plants in hospital spaces.

The art curator invited artist Jen McLennan and staff from the newly built Psychiatric and Emergency Care Centre (PECC) to undertake a co design session to determine plant type, colour palette, tone, size and inclusion of fauna. The workshop, designed in part by an engagement design specialist, encouraged participants to link emotive experiences to plant types and colour palettes. The process led to the project focusing on Australian native flora with a blue toned colour palette of leafy plants for the psychiatric areas, while colourful elements including flowers, native birds and butterflies could be used in other spaces.

Psychiatric Emergency Care Centre

27 individual plants, bird and butterfly images were painted, scanned and printed on clear vinyl, which can be installed as individual pieces or combined to create a natural scene. The project to date has been installed in PECC Safe Assessment Space and interview rooms, Outpatients transfusion rooms, Immunology Outpatients examination rooms, podiatry rooms, St Joseph’s Auburn waiting room and the mobile clinic van. As more spaces within the health network utilise the images created from this project, and patients and staff have had time to register the effects and impact of the work, an evaluation survey will be implemented. This will aim to better measure the potential wellbeing outcomes from the incorporation of biophilic imagery that meets risk and clinical requirements.


Feature Image:  St Vincent’s Hospital Immunology Outpatients examination room (before and after).
Article by Alice McAuliffe, Art Curator at St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney / Post by Rosa Clifford.
All images supplied by St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney.