By Kathleen E. Chavanu Gorman, MSN, RN, FAAN, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Patient Care Services
As a nurse, I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of children over my career. I’m always inspired by the hope I see in their eyes, and I love having the time to talk to them not just about their care, but about their wishes and dreams.
A few years ago, a child in our care who was very ill expressed her last wish: to go outside one last time. While it seems like a simple wish to make come true, in reality, it was quite an undertaking for our team to fulfill it safely. A whole team of staff members sprung into action to ensure that the patient would indeed be able to enjoy sunlight on her face and breathe in fresh air. The experience raised a vital question for all of us: how could we make access to the outdoors safe and healthy for all of our patients, families, and caregivers? After all, the average length of stay for a child admitted to our hospital is six days, and many others are here for weeks or even months.
As medical practitioners, we know there are many health benefits to spending time outdoors. For example, the Journal of Environmental Psychology has shown that just 10 minutes spent outside is enough to lower blood pressure. While a garden space may never directly provide a child a cure to their illness, we know that outdoor spaces can contribute to healing. That’s why we were determined to create a healing garden for our families.
Thanks to Heather and Andy Florance, the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, the employees of CoStar Group, and other donors, we will soon begin construction of the garden. I am moved by the thought of the many children who will be able to take a moment away from the rigors of treatment and feel the warmth of sunshine or stare at the clear, blue sky, with their families by their side. It’s one more way we will do everything in our power to provide every child and family with the best possible care and support.