Outdoor Spaces Offer Respite, Relaxation and Rejuvenation

Mary Greeley Medical Center offers outdoor spaces for patients, families, and staff

In 1984, the journal Science published a study conducted by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich, touting the therapeutic benefits of outdoor spaces for hospital patients. The study was the first to use the standards of modern medical research—strict experimental controls and quantified health outcomes—to demonstrate that gazing at a garden can sometimes speed healing from surgery, infections, and other ailments

In the years since, more and more hospitals have incorporated outdoor spaces into their design, including features that offer patients, families, and staff an opportunity to “get away” without leaving campus.

Mary Greeley Medical Center developed its first major outdoor space as part of the Israel Family Hospice House in the late 1990s. Designed with a European feel, the garden includes a variety of plantings, benches, and chairs to sit and relax, a walking path and a gazebo. During nearly three decades, countless families have spent time in this garden with loved ones, reminiscing and reflecting.

Mary Greeley's Rooftop GardenMore recently, the medical center developed a rooftop garden as part of its major addition in 2016 and is in the process of creating a new Healing Garden on the east edge of campus. Both are designed to offer respite, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

“There is real therapeutic value to getting outside of the four walls of the hospital and getting outside,” says Sarah Heikens, MSN, MPA, RN, OCN, NE-BC, Director of Oncology Services at Mary Greeley. “Having a dedicated outdoor space, especially for our patients who are here for an extended period, is of real benefit. For our unit, specifically, the rooftop garden allows us to even move a hospital bed outdoors. That is important and helps even patients who are very ill to remain connected with the world around them.”

The Healing Garden will be completed this Fall. Among the supporters of the project is Michael Kitchell, M.D., of McFarland Clinic Neurology. An avid gardener himself, Kitchell and his wife Mary, who has served on the Mary Greeley Board of Trustees for more than two decades, jumped at the opportunity to support the project.

“It is just very restorative to be outside, and that goes for patients, but also for families and staff,” Mary says. “The life-changing events that occur in any hospital can foster a range of intense emotions, both positive and negative, that can deplete us. It is important to have spaces that allow people to be able to decompress and move toward equilibrium. Our hope is that the Healing Garden provides a break on challenging days, that it provides an opportunity to get away and get refreshed.”

The Mary Greeley Foundation continues to raise funds for the Healing Garden. To learn more, visit https://www.mgmc.org/foundation/healing-garden/

The Healing Garden at Mary Greeley Medical Center

In April, we broke ground on a new Healing Garden located along Duff Avenue, adjacent to the William R. Bliss Cancer Center. Funded entirely by private gifts, the area is designed to provide patients, families, and staff a peaceful area to relax and enjoy nature.

Several recognition opportunities remain. To learn more about making a gift in support of the Healing Garden, please email gilbertson@mgmc.com or call us at (515) 239-2147.

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MGMC Foundation
1111 Duff Ave.
Ames, IA 50010

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