Patient participation in gardening at hospitals can improve health outcomes

By Healthcare Facilities Today
May 23, 2013

Providing patients with access to a garden can have therapeutic benefits, according to an article by Array Architects. The healing effects of incorporating natural elements — such as access to daylight and outside views — into healthcare design are widely known. However, the article argues a more significant healing effect can be achieved by giving patients access to a gardening space, whether as simple as a container garden or a much more involved garden plan.

Numerous studies cited in the article have tried to quantify the reasons for the healing effect of interacting with nature. There are theories of biophilia, meaning humans are inherently meant to interact with the natural environment, and research into how phytoncides emitted by plants seem to increase white blood cell counts, for example. One study cited found that spending just "five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation."

In order to implement an "ecotherapy" program at their facility, a hospital needn't have a lot of money or space, says the article. In fact, using a "neglected, ignored or underutilized area" as the site for the garden can give patients the additional boost of helping to "heal" the space.

Healing gardens have a few simple requirements. They need to be "functional, accessible, easily maintained, environmentally sound, cost effective and visually pleasing." The key is letting the patients actively participate in rather than passively enjoy the garden. In addition, a healing garden could also serve as the site of complimentary therapies such as meditation or yoga.

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