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Healing Garden Planned for Oncology Unit

Healing Garden

Providence Regional Cancer System is in the planning stages for a Healing Garden that would be accessible to all patients and staff, and located on the oncology unit at the hospital. Patients being treated for cancer are often admitted many times for treatment, as well as the management of side effects, and they often stay longer in the hospital than the average hospital patient.  

Currently an inaccessible roof-top slab, the area will be transformed into a Healing Garden, which will provide direct access to nature and a healing environment for patients and their families. The approximately 3,000 square foot area is intended to enhance patients’ well-being, while demonstrating a commitment to spiritual and emotional health.  

The caregivers on the Oncology Unit are incredibly passionate about this project. Lea Frank, an oncology nurse with St. Peter Hospital since 2005 says, “Patients deserve a chance to get away from such a sterile environment. They need a chance to remember they are not just a room number, not just a diagnosis.” She points out that, “three out of five cancer patients suffer from depression. They need a chance to get away, especially when they get bad news.” 

Margi Mann knows first-hand how difficult it is to be a patient. Margi was diagnosed in 2007 with bladder cancer, a disease that affects three to four times as many men as women. Because she is living with cancer, Margi has ongoing procedures that happen regularly, and has hospital visits once every 6 months or so, with emergency visits occasionally.  

She remembers one particularly vivid hospital stay where she says, “I wasn’t well enough to go home, and medically, I had to be in the hospital. But I had energy to burn.” She’d walked over 17 laps around the oncology unit, but after several days of being confined to the same floor, she says, “I was itching to get out.”  

Her treatment meant she needed to be confined to the unit, but after signing medical consents, and under the supervision of her mother, she was able to be released to walk the grounds of St. Peter Hospital. Margi says once she got outside, “I felt myself immediately calm down. The surroundings -- and the care that St. Peter Hospital has taken to create such a beautiful, healing campus -- enabled me to calm down, take a deep breath, and go back to being a good patient for the rest of my stay.”

Key to the project is that the Healing Garden will be part of the Oncology Unit, meaning that patients will be able to walk out or be pushed in a wheelchair outside to gain access to fresh air, sun (and rain), while staying on the unit. Access will be through an internal ramp and waiting area on the south end of the Oncology Unit. Margi is a strong champion of the project, and says, "It would have been really great, and so much easier, if I had been able to walk right out of the 3rd floor and into that same calm, relaxing environment on the rooftop garden."  

Using the average number of patients served each year, Providence St. Peter Hospital estimates that the garden would be visited by patients and families over 2,000 times each year.