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New horticulture therapy program, apiary help WellSpan patients to recover while giving back

October 09, 2020

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New horticulture therapy program, apiary help WellSpan patients to recover while giving back

Rehabilitation involves more than just physical healing of the body. Often, it’s the mental healing that helps bring the body back to 100%. Patients at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital now have a new way to engage in activities that let them do just that. And the fruits of their labor are not only a recovered body, but actual fruits and vegetables.

"In order to rehabilitate someone, you want to get them involved in activities they’re interested in, because the brain will help them recover faster," said Betsy Trumble, P.T., M.S., director of inpatient rehabilitation, WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital. "In an effort to find a better way for our patients to recover, we decided to develop a horticulture therapy program. In just a few weeks, it has already been a big hit with our patients."

More than 30 patients have helped participate in tending to the garden beds since they opened in late July. The seeds of the idea for a horticulture therapy program, however, were planted two years ago.

During WellSpan's annual Employee Giving Campaign, team members from WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital donated money toward a new horticultural therapy program for their patients. Employees generously donated close to $14,000. It was enough to fully fund the idea.

"The staff at WellSpan Health are always so quick to give back in order to make sure our patients receive the best care possible, and this Employee Giving Campaign was no different," said Matthew Lane, executive director, WellSpan York Health Foundation. "We are always looking for ways to improve the patient experience at WellSpan, through new and innovative procedures and therapies. The generosity of our employees is why we are able to meet that goal."

As the wheels were put in motion with employees researching how to start a successful inpatient horticulture therapy program, COVID-19 impacted southcentral Pennsylvania. With the focus of hospital staff shifting to managing the pandemic, plans for the garden area were put on hold.

"For a couple months, everything involving this program had to grind to a halt," said Trumble. "We were determined to get things moving again, though. It wasn’t just WellSpan staff participating, but family members as well. My father, Mike Minard, began planting six varieties of tomatoes for the garden."

Gardening became a popular activity during the pandemic, so finding raised garden beds became an impossible task. Rich Diamond, the husband of Victoria Diamond, senior vice president for the central region of WellSpan Health and president of WellSpan York Hospital, went to work, designing and building a garden bed himself. Five more beds were then fabricated by WellSpan York Hospital and WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation staff, all of them ADA compliant and can be accessed by patients who are either standing or in a wheelchair.

"The new horticulture therapy program is a testament to the WellSpan employees working as one," said Victoria Diamond. "Despite the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team members and their families came together to make sure our patients get the best experience possible as they recover at our facility."

In August, the first batch of produce from the garden was delivered to the York County Food Bank, with plans for weekly deliveries in the future. A greenhouse is also being planned.

Along with fruits and vegetables, the York County Food Bank will also soon be receiving honey produced at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital.

The York County Beekeeper Association recently reached out to the hospital about putting a new apiary on the property, where children from the community could be educated about bees and have hives on site. The plan was quickly approved, with nine hives being placed on site.

"The new apiary is not only a great way to help children learn about the importance of bees, but it’s also been great for our patients as well," said Mike Groff, manager, property management services for WellSpan Health.
"We've had patients, some of whom are actually beekeepers themselves, who have loved looking out at the apiary through their windows as they recover. It’s created a lot of excitement around the hospital, and it's great that we’re able to give back and donate the honey that is produced through this project."

Learn more information on the services provided at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital.

Learn more about how you can help donate to the WellSpan Health Foundation.