Patients may suffer from what researchers have coined “ICU Syndrome,” a condition characterized by hallucinations, delusions, psychotic episodes and sleep disturbances that have no direct link to the illness itself. Art for ICU patient rooms must be very clear and completely unambiguous. Nature photographs with sunlight and full-spectrum color are successful choices because they are reality-based.
The role of art in non-patient areas should be to offer comfort and to reduce the stress levels of family members. Family waiting areas, consult rooms and grief rooms offer opportunities to address the needs of the family through art. Use images that are supportive and dignified. Remember that the visitors to these areas are almost without exception adults, with many of them being spouses of the patients so the stress level is extremely high. Avoid images of sunsets, empty benches, single flowers in a vase, any images that suggest death and loss. Faith-based hospitals often display religious or spiritual art in an ICU for comfort for the family in a time of need.