A clinical environment in any type of healthcare institution can provoke anxiety and stress, especially for young patients. As a member of the European Association for Children in Hospital (EACH) and therefor active advocate of the European Charter of Children’s Rights in Hospital (Handvest Kind & Ziekenhuis www.kindenziekenhuis.nl/handvest), Anouk Foundation is committed to Article 7 in particular: Children shall have full opportunity for play, recreation and education suited to their age and condition and shall be in an environment designed, furnished, staffed and equipped to meet their needs.’ Their vision is a world in which illness and accidents become a less traumatic and fearful experience thanks to a reassuring and welcoming atmosphere. They have already brightened the lives of 1.8 million patients across 14 countries since their creation in 2008.
In just a few weeks and in close collaboration with the beneficiaries (children, parents and medical staff), the foundation co-creates therapeutic murals using the principles of art-therapy to soothe the children and their families from the moment they enter the ward until they leave. The colourful paintings become story-telling tools to distract the patients and help them communicate with the medical staff.
Over 650 scientific publications and years of experience have shown that a friendly environment has a huge impact on patients’ recovery and wellbeing:
- Reducing anxiety: fear and pain subside, patients feel reassured and comforted;
- Encouraging interaction and improving communication: caregivers use the murals as a storytelling tool to engage with the patients, communicate, stimulate, orientate, and explain any planned activities;
- Improving working conditions: a cheerful work environment has a beneficial influence on the day-to-day treatment of the patients.
In the Netherlands, Anouk Foundation has created therapeutic murals in two children’s hospitals in Utrecht:
- Hospital Diakonessenhuis (Day-care & Neonatology wards and General Paediatric ward) in 2012: “The wards have been transformed into a very child-friendly and humourful surrounding – the paintings thrill everyone”, according to Dr Mark Hoetjer, Head Paediatrician. While there is so much to see and discover, the design is not loud at all but really comforting to the eye. Entering the ward is like stepping into a magic world: each room is decorated with the age group of the children in mind. For teenagers, murals are very cool with a music theme. Neonatal is very calm and sweet, and the room for the young children has a gentle landscape with animals that helps parents to tell stories and invites children to daydream. As one of the paediatricians said it: “We are very happy with Anouk Foundation, the artists and with Sikkens*. The children can see happy, colourful landscapes from their beds with little characters and animals so they can make-up their own stories and discover new things over and over again. It makes it an even better place for parents, children and our staff.”
- Prinses Máxima Hospital (Paediatric Oncology Ward) in 2015: this specialised centre gathers all care processes, to offer different treatments in one place and therefore increase the rate of healing, and to provide optimal palliative care. The murals help connect the children’s days in the hospital with their life at home. The colours and themes attract the children’s attention, contributing to their all-round development and recovery. Depicting everyday themes such as family, art, sport, music and school, the prominent colour is orange, and an orange ’thread’ connects the themes, and is continued on doors, and even curtains.
*Sikkens is a paint brand distributed by the Dutch company AkzoNobel and Anouk Foundation’s exclusive paint provider. They have generously supported many Anouk projects over the years, all of them using Sikkens paint.
Anouk Foundation: www.anouk.org
Handvest Kind&Ziekenhuis: www.kindenziekenhuis.nl/handvest