The esteemed British medical journal BMJ, in its Christmas issue, tackles a thorny topic: flowers on hospital wards.
Increasing numbers of hospitals in Britain are banning flowers, and two researchers at Imperial College London seem to conclude this is an unfortunate trend.
In the 1900s, it was common for nurses to remove flowers from the hospital bedside at night because of a belief that blossoms competed with the patient for oxygen. And a 1973 study indicated that vase water contains high levels of bacteria. Concerns about broken glass, allergies and bouquet upkeep are also cited as reasons to banish flowers from hospital rooms, write researchers Giskin Day and Naiome Carter in the journal.
Today, most hospitals prohibit flowers on intensive-care units and other high-level care areas. But some have moved to halt flora gifts altogether. Southend University Hospital in Westcliff-on-Sea, England, now prohibits flowers despite an outcry from local politicians and the local public.
In interviews with British nurses, Day and Carter found that most view flowers as a hazard. “I hate them,” charge nurse Dermot Richards-Scully, of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, told the researchers. “My staff don’t have time to change stagnant water; spillage is responsible for slips, trips and falls; and they cause hay fever.”
Nurses on recovery units had more positive views of flowers, according to the article.
Perhaps the answer is to make room for flowers, such as redesigning bedside tables to include vases, thus reducing spillage, the researchers suggest.
Patients in rooms with flowers or plants tend to have better moods and memory, lower blood pressure and fewer post-operative complications, according to two studies published in 2005 and 2008.
“Flowers and herbs have been used as remedies in the earliest hospitals, and as a means of cheering up the hospital environment for at least 200 years,” the researchers conclude. “It seems remarkable that flowers still tend to be treated in an ad hoc fashion in hospitals.”