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Sensory space helps ICU patients

2 November 2018

Princess Alexandra Hospital’s (PAH) new sensory space, featuring stunning murals, aromatic plants and a striking view of Brisbane’s CBD, is helping the 75 per cent of intensive care patients who experience delirium.

Clinical Nurse Kim Northey said research showed stimulating a patient’s senses of sight, sound and smell was proven to help prevent and reduce the duration of delirium.

“Delirium, which is a disturbance in mental abilities that results in confused thinking and reduced awareness, can have profound impacts on our patients’ long-term cognitive recovery,” she said.

“We know sensory input helps patients with delirium, but achieving this is a challenge in a normally stark, clinical hospital environment.

“Long-stay patients previously used the balcony off the Intensive Care Unit as part of their recovery process, but the space was bleak and un-inviting.”

But now it’s an oasis for both patients and staff.

“With engaging imagery, sunlight, fresh air and horticultural therapy, the renovated balcony offers a space for patients to feel they are outside while inside the hospital,” Ms Northey said.  

“It also provides staff with the same opportunities and a quiet space for reprieve during long, challenging shifts.”

Past patient Glenn Tonges, who cut the ribbon at an official opening earlier this week, said he hoped the space would provide comfort and care to patients experiencing delirium.

“Having had delirium during my time in intensive care at PAH, I know how challenging, confusing and difficult it is,” he said.

“This space will provide patients with the sensory stimulation they need to starve off the difficult mental state of delirium.

“It’s wonderful to see PAH thinking a little outside the box about how to help patients.” 

The redevelopment project took five months and was a joint initiative of PAH staff and community volunteers—who donated time, expertise and resources.  

Last updated 2 November 2018
Last reviewed 2 November 2018

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