PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Taking time to smell the proverbial roses is helping people combat stress at a local hospital.
The Level 1 trauma center is home to a 6,000-square-foot terrace garden where visitors can take a stroll or sit and rest on a bench.
Legacy recently won a national award — The Center for Health Design’s Evidence-Based Design Touchstone Award Platinum — for the garden’s therapeutic design.
Over a span of two years, researchers at the center paid close attention to how nurses were affected by breaks spent in the garden versus breaks spent in traditional break rooms. The results suggest that those who choose the latter may experience a decrease in emotional exhaustion, among other things.
“Even a five or 10 minute break is really restorative,” said Mariah Keane, a registered nurse at Legacy Emanuel. “We take care of some really high acuity patients, so the chance to just take a deep breath for five minutes can help re-center yourself and I feel like that helps me take better care of my patients, as well.”
Legacy Director of Clinical Research Dr. Seren Perkins said the benefits of physically spending breaks in the garden outweighed the benefits of spending time in traditional break rooms, even those that had windows looking out upon nature.
“The garden performed better as far as relieving symptoms of burnout and stress in nurses,” Perkins told KOIN 6 News.
One participant in the study said she would often spend more than the required 15 minutes a day in the garden.
“It was really refreshing,” remarked RN Deborah Hamilton. “We had these indoor times and these outdoor times and we longed for the outdoor times.”
But what is it, specifically, about the garden that helps relieve stress?
Teresia Hazen, coordinator of Therapeutic Gardens, thinks the magic lies in the simplicity.
“If you take a moment to focus you can smell nature, (it) helps you relax, you can touch nature,” Hazen said. “We just watched some hummingbirds. That helps us focus our attention in different ways than a family that has a mom in the intensive care unit.”