A new therapy garden at Worthing Hospital will offer a dedicated outdoor space to support the mental and physical rehabilitation of patients, particularly those who have brain injuries, dementia, have had a stroke or are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Physiotherapy Technician, Julie Harris, was instrumental in the garden’s creation after recognising patients with these types of conditions could benefit from other forms of therapy.
Within the hospital environment, there can be a lack of privacy and it can be overstimulating in a busy clinical area which can affect the way some patients respond to therapy.
Julie explained: “I was seeing neuro and stroke patients in particular and finding that they had all these sorts of symptoms that weren’t necessarily improving just in therapy. I thought it would be nice to have a space that was private where patients could go for fresh air, and so I began reading research studies explaining why outdoor spaces are beneficial for patients.”
The research shows nature-based rehabilitation and interacting with the outdoors benefits individuals undergoing rehabilitation, including those with neurological disorders, so having an outdoor space creates more positive experiences for patients and help towards their care.
Julie, along with Neuro Physiotherapist Emma Harding and other fellow physio colleagues set out to gain an outdoor area where patients could get fresh air and improve on their therapy in secure space and were supported with funding from the Trust’s dedicated charity, My University Hospitals Sussex.
The new therapy garden is located by the courtyard behind the outpatients service and was officially opened in September 2023.
Julie said: “I am extremely proud that what started as a dream has become a reality and we now have a safe and secure place for all our patients, those able bodied, those in wheelchairs and of course, those on beds. Somewhere they can meet family, friends and pets; somewhere they can see daylight and feel the sun, wind and rain and somewhere they can just have a breath of fresh air! The garden was opened on the anniversary of the death of my mother – a very keen gardener and dog lover, which in itself is very apt.”
This accessible space will be transformed into a peaceful, green oasis that aims to deliver a relaxing, therapeutic space for patients to engage in their therapy and relearn movements in privacy, away from the busy hospital environment.
It will feature equipment to aid therapy, furniture, parasols, games, and handrails that will allow patients to practice walking on different surfaces outside of flat hospital floors.
A variety of professionals, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists can use this space to assist their patients with their therapy, whilst boosting their independence and self-confidence.
In addition to therapy and exercise, the area can improve patients’ wellbeing by facilitating visits with family and pets in a less clinical setting that offers a safe and secure area.
Many patients have beloved pets they’re longing to see that can’t come into the hospital, so being reunited with their four-legged friends and being able to reconnect with them boosts morale and their mental wellbeing.
Patients have already been able to experience the garden, including a palliative patient who was able to use the area to have a visit with their family and dog.
At the same time, a patient from ITU who was on a ventilator and accompanied by a doctor, nurse, and physiotherapist was delighted to be in the garden and to be able to meet someone else’s dog.
The team now have plans for raised planters to be built, so patients can get into the garden to do some potting. Some therapy patients have expressed their love for gardening, so incorporating therapy with something that is meaningful to them will create a positive, real-life experience for them.
Also, with the addition of vibrant plants, patients can experience new colours, textures, and fragrances to stimulate their senses.
Stephen Mardlin, Worthing Hospital Director said: “It’s fantastic to see the passion and dedication from Julie and the team to the improvement of care for these patients, be brought to fruition.
“The therapy garden is making an enormous difference to their ability to provide care by having somewhere that meets patients’ needs in being able to go outside, enjoy the fresh air and be in a safe environment. I’d also like to recognise Tony Leggatt and the garden committee for working with the physiotherapy team to deliver this fantastic garden.”