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‘A healing environment’: How the Huband Moffat Family Terrace will support mental health care in the new patient care centre
Over the last few months, steady progress has been made on an outdoor terrace space on the fifth floor of Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) new Ken and Marilyn Thomson patient care centre. As part of MGH’s ongoing redevelopment project, the dedicated Huband Moffat Family Terrace is being built for mental health programming.
It will come with outdoor gardens, a variety of fixed seating, spaces for therapeutic patient programming and a shade structure named for The Mitchell and Kathryn Baran Family Foundation/Danielle Baran. For younger patients, there will be a play structure on the terrace along with access to the garden spaces.
“Working with our organizational partners, these outdoor spaces will support therapeutic care, and provide a space to enjoy a natural environment,” says Cindy Hawkswell, director of redevelopment and infrastructure at MGH. “Greenery, shaded spaces, fresh breezes and sunlight can be good for healing, reducing stress and provide a soothing safe retreat.”
“We are stewards to ensuring the spaces align with the clinical teams and address the feedback from our patients, families and community,” Cindy adds.
There is a very real need for these kinds of healing spaces, clinicians say.
Kristine Leggett, a clinical services leader for mental health at MGH, shared a story of a patient who would tell staff how much they missed being able to go outside. They missed being able to “feel the wind and see the sky,” the patient would say.
“The new terrace would provide them an opportunity to do just that,” she says. “These are things you take for granted when you’re able to be out and about, and you’re not in the hospital for long periods of time.”
Past research has shown exposure to nature has many benefits on patient care. A study published in 1984 of patients recovering from gallbladder removal found that patients with views of trees from their room recovered at a faster pace than those whose rooms looked out onto a brick wall.
Kristine says psychiatric care has been shifting towards a more patient-centred approach; one that has begun to include holistic means of treatment to complement medication. This includes the use of different spaces and environments, such as the new outdoor terrace, to help patients to “reconnect” with their senses.
One thing patients may get from this kind of care is “some degree of peace and healing,” Kristine says.
“It allows them a way of calming down,” Kristine says. “It offers the opportunity to ground you in your senses in a more natural environment.”
Kristine says there are many ways the terrace space can be used, from outdoor programming for patient care to group activities to free play for younger patients.
“I’m sure it will evolve over time as patients and staff members think of different ideas to try,” she says.
Ultimately, Kristine hopes patients will find a “healing environment” while out on the terrace where they can “connect to a healthier part of themselves.”