Does the view in a chemo room make a difference?

HOUSTON – When cancer patients are administered chemotherapy, it can mean long hours sitting in a chair in a room with nothing more than medical equipment. But now, researchers want to know how nature might calm these patients and help the healing process.

Cancer patients spend long hours alone in a room.

“I need to get chemo and it takes usually seven or eight hours,” Rick Shojaei said.

So, researchers are studying whether views of nature impact a patient’s healing. Using a traditional room, a virtual reality room, and one with a view of a luscious outdoor garden, they are measuring pain, blood pressure and saliva cortisol, which indicates stress.

“We have so many patients, especially first-time coming in here not knowing what to expect, so anxious, so tense. You can see the fear in their face. And then, when you give them such a spectacular view, such a natural view, it instantly relaxes them,” Ashley Verzwyvelt, registered nurse at Houston Methodist, said.

The project is the brainchild of Verzwyvelt and colleague Renee Stubbins, Houston Methodist Senior Oncology Dietician, who secured funding to build the garden on a previously empty rooftop outside the chemo rooms.

Stubbins told Ivanhoe, “As a dietician, I do believe we have this innate connection to nature. Our food comes from nature. We are part of nature.”

The virtual reality goggles allow patients to interact with nature scenes filled with animals in the wild.

Meanwhile, in the room with no view, or VR …

“In a room like this, you feel pretty isolated. But, in a room like garden, that you got view to look out, it is a big difference,” Shojaei explained.

Making a tough time just a little bit easier.

The study, which will include 36 cancer patients, is ongoing and was funded by a nonprofit conservation group, studying how factors in nature lead to better health.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Bruce Mainscalo, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.