Plants pilot study to boost hospital staff wellbeing

Wednesday, 10 August, 2022

Plants pilot study to boost hospital staff wellbeing

Mater has launched an edible garden pilot project in a bid to reduce burnout and enhance the wellbeing of health workers.

The therapeutic horticulture project is said to be the first of its kind at an Australian hospital and is being run in conjunction with Bond University researchers to determine the health and nutritional wellbeing benefits of gardening at work.

Mater Director of Dietetics and Food Services Sally McCray said healthcare workers had been under increased pressure in recent years with the global pandemic, and therapeutic horticulture was one way to ‘care for carers’.

“We are starting off with a small growers’ group of interested staff members who will maintain the outdoor gardens and be able to harvest the produce for their own use,” McCray said.

“This initial group will inform a broader staff health and wellbeing edible garden program that we hope to roll out at the end of this year.”

Mater has also partnered with celebrity chef Luke Mangan and Vegepod Australia to grow culinary greens in the hospital kitchen to service patients.

The micro herbs will be used in a range of dishes, co-created by Mater Executive Chef Aman Marwah and Mangan, to boost the nutritional intake of patients.

“Through Mater’s partnership with Luke Mangan, we have developed a range of new menus that provide patients with nutritionally balanced, restaurant-style dishes,” McCray said.

Mater's new edible vegetable garden.

Bond University senior conjoint research dietitian Dr Jennifer Utters said, “The benefits of therapeutic horticulture are becoming well recognised in disability services, aged care facilities and other settings, for helping to provide tools for respite and a way to care for carers.

“'There is a growing body of research on the health benefits of gardening, including its ability to reduce emotional distress, improve quality of life and increase the consumption of vegetables.

“For staff, research shows that taking breaks in the garden instead of inside could help to reduce burnout reported by health workers.”

McCray said Vegepod Australia had provided a six-square-metre self-watering garden that would be located at the hospital’s South Brisbane campus. Vegepod Head of Community Simon Holloway said three large pods would be used in the pilot with staff able to choose produce from a long list of options, including tomatoes, rocket, spinach, eggplant, chilli, capsicum, bok choy, herbs and more.

“This is the first time we have run a pilot program at a hospital and, apart from cost savings, the gardens enhance nutrition for those who consume the produce while offering huge mental health benefits,” Holloway said.

“Staff don’t have the time to visit beaches or forests or riverbanks to enjoy nature-based therapy, but they can get the same sort of benefits from caring for a small garden.

“Apart from mental and spiritual support, staff find there’s a camaraderie that comes with tending the gardens and a great sense of contentment from the act of nurturing.”

McCray said Mater patients would start benefiting from the kitchen-grown ingredients when their new seasonal Luke Mangan menus started being dished up later this month.

Top image caption: Chef Luke Mangan, Mater Director of Dietetics and Food Services Sally McCray and Executive Chef Aman Marwah. Images: Supplied

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