Suburban Community Hospital Resident Wellness Garden

Public health studies have shown that community gardens have improved outcomes in patients and families. Using evidence-grounded designWellness garden theory, gardens serve to increase individuals’ engagement in nature which can lead to stress reduction. Although this phenomenon has been documented, its effect on medical residents and medical professionals in general has been understudied. Suburban Community Hospital Intern class decided to study it first-hand.

Over a weekend this past May, residents and attending physicians were invited to help in building the wellness garden. An area behind the hospital was designated as the area suitable for the garden. Funds from the grant were used to purchase soil, plants, and other materials to build the garden.

The goal is that this designated space would serve as an area for reflection, conversations, or merely an oasis outside the walls of the hospital. The construction of the gardens allows for team-building and social activity within our program. Anonymous surveys are available for medical residents, medical students, and other healthcare professionals to fill out.

Questions on the surveys include the following:

  1. How much time did you spend in the wellness garden?
  2. Activities in the Garden (circle all that apply): relax, eat, talk, stroll, therapy, wait, meeting
  3. What is it about the garden that helps you feel better? (circle one):
    1. Trees, plants, nature
    2. Smells, sounds, fresh air
    3. Place to be alone, with friends or family
    4. Views, sub-areas, textures
    5. Practical features, benches
    6. Don’t know
  4. How do you feel after spending time in the garden (circle one):

    a. More Relaxed, calmer
    b. Refreshed, stronger
    c. Able to think/ cope
    d. Feel better, more positive
    e. Religious or spiritual connection
    f. No change in mood 

Residents planting a wellness gardenAdditionally, the wellness garden is to be used as a platform in our monthly resident wellness lectures regarding nutrition, healthy lifestyle, and mental health. From the data we collect, we hope to create interest in wellness gardens for more residency programs across the United States.

Resident wellness and mental health have recently been a popular subject in graduate medical education. With long hours and high-stress environments, residents need access to creative outlets in order to manage stress. Our residents believe the wellness garden on our hospital campus will allow us to manage our stress better by enabling us time to spend together as well as space outside in nature.

Our hope is that our wellness garden will be used by medical residents, hospital staff, as well as patients and their families as an area outside the hospital where they can sit, reflect, and relax. We hope to be able to show a positive impact on stress levels, fatigue, and overall well-being from the surveys of those using the garden. We will incorporate as many ideas from residents as possible, and in subsequent years, allow them to choose different plants or flowers, and add to the wellness garden in ways in which they think will be beneficial. Future goals that have been discussed our involving community and civic groups in the maintenance and upkeep of the garden. We hope to be able to use the wellness garden as a platform to have discussions and talk about nutrition, healthy lifestyle, and mental health and wellness issues not only within our residency program but within our community in Norristown.

residents at their wellness garden

By creating the garden, we formalized a wellness curriculum and spent more time outside tending to the garden. Post surveys showed residents had a positive experience regarding increased wellness time in didactics.

We will continue to maintain and expand our garden. It was truly an amazing experience to grow our own herbs, fruits, and vegetables that ended up giving us a healthy option for lunch at the hospital. Simply making time for ourselves to spend time outdoors has improved how we residents handle stressful situations.