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Just how much is a hospital green space worth?

By July 19, 2022News

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Nature Sacred
First of its kind calculator shows financial impact of nature spaces in mitigating burnout-related costs in hospitals


ANNAPOLIS, MD — In the midst of a quest for measures to address the epidemic of burnout among nurses and physicians, and at the same time, improve patient care, new evidence of the impact of hospital green spaces has emerged. A newly-published paper authored by Sean M. Murphy, PhD, health economist and Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, reports on the development of a first ever means to calculate the financial impact of usable on-campus green spaces.

The paper was published by Nature Sacred, an organization that supports the creation of contemplative green spaces, with funding support from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“While the scientific evidence of nature’s influence on various aspects of health and wellbeing on an individual and community level is well-documented and growing, until now, no one had measured the implications in terms of dollars and cents,” Nature Sacred CEO Alden Stoner said. “This is something many C Suite health care executives have been asking for; now, we have an answer.”

“In short, we knew nature spaces had an outsized impact on individual and community health, now there is evidence that they have an outsized impact on improving the bottom line for healthcare campuses.”

A dynamic companion calculator built using the budget impact tool described in the paper is openly available for any hospital to use. It requires a few key inputs related to nurse and physician employment figures and an estimated budget (figure) for creating and maintaining a green space. The resulting calculation is an estimate of how much the hospital could potentially offset in burnout-related expenses. Two sample scenarios included in the paper illustrate the applicability of the calculator in both a small and large hospital setting.

According to Dr. Murphy, there were three areas where cost-offsets associated with a biophilic intervention would potentially be the greatest: in mitigating turnover, absences and errors among nurses and physicians.

“The science on the value of green spaces to physical and mental human health is clear,” said Jana Davis, president of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  “This work is key in taking this science to the next step: Evaluating the economic implications of that health impact.  The analysis will encourage institutions to weave green spaces into their campus designs at great return on investment.”

Adam Ortiz, Regional Administrator for EPA Mid-Atlantic Region, too, recognizes the potential impact of the paper and calculator. “Now more than ever, we know just how valuable our hospital and healthcare workers are,” said Ortiz.  “Identifying ways to implement accessible green spaces for them is vital – to alleviate burnout and aiding in their own health and wellness as they continue to care for their patients.  This tool will have far-reaching benefits to the hospital community.”

About Nature Sacred

Nature Sacred exists to inspire, inform and guide communities in the creation of public green spaces—called Sacred Places—designed to improve mental health, unify communities and engender peace. For over 25 years, Nature Sacred has partnered with more than 100 communities across the country to infuse nearby nature into places where healing is often needed most: distressed urban neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, prisons and more. Through a collaborative, community-led process and an evidence-based design model, each Sacred Place is bonded together by a common goal: to reconnect people with nature in ways that foster mindful reflection, restore mental health and strengthen communities. As each community imagines its own space, the design becomes a unique reflection of the community’s culture, story and place—making it inherently sacred to them. Learn about our model, our approach and our Sacred Places: naturesacred.org

About the Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust (www.cbtrust.org) envisions a restored and protected Chesapeake Bay watershed and other natural resources. We empower local community-based groups on the ground with the resources they need to take on a meaningful and measurable role in restoring forests, streams, rivers, bays, wildlife, and more in their own communities. Every year, the Trust empowers about 400 groups by providing grants and technical assistance to accomplish environmental education, community outreach, and local watershed restoration projects. The Trust is supported by the sale of the Chesapeake Bay license plate; donations to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on the Maryland State income tax form; donations made by hunters, fishers, and boaters in the Maryland online natural resource licensing systemdonations from individuals and corporations; and partnerships with private foundations and federal, state, and local governments. The Trust has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator for over two decades.  On average, 90% of the Trust’s expenditures are directed to its restoration and education programs.

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