The grounds at UPMC Shadyside are no ordinary hospital grounds. Maintained by a crew of just four groundskeepers, the vegetable and Japanese gardens improve not only the hospital landscape, but also the lives of those in the community.
With over 40 varieties of flowers, herbs and vegetables, the gardens outside UPMC Shadyside’s West Wing combine both practicality and beauty. The garden grows everything from tomatoes to cilantro, and no chemicals or preservatives are used.
“Five years ago, there wasn’t much out here on this patio, but now it’s grown into something beautiful,” said Robbie Kiefer, grounds foreman at Shadyside. “This wouldn’t be possible without the support of Pat Hogan, director of maintenance, due to his willingness to allow us the opportunity to develop this project.”
The produce grown is sent to the hospital’s cafeteria, the Hillman Cancer Center Café, as well as the catering staff. The availability of fresh, preservative-free food is especially beneficial to the patients at the UPMC CancerCenter, who need to focus on healthy eating.
“It’s great to have freshly grown and sourced produce provided on-site for us,” said Joshua Cope, Food Services manager. “Robbie and her team do an amazing job of presenting us with top-notch herbs and garden-fresh vegetables to incorporate into our daily production. There’s also a sense of UPMC community pride, knowing that we can offer our patients, their families and fellow employees these items in their daily meals.”
Hospital staff also love having access to fresh vegetables, which are free and available for them to try.
“It’s so nice to come out here,” said Shelley Watters, DNP, RN, director of professional development at UPMC Shadyside. “I put lettuce from this garden on my sandwiches, and I cook with many of the herbs.”
In the future, hospital staff hope to get the entire Shadyside community involved in the garden.
“We want to get community groups and kids’ clubs involved so they learn more about gardening and organic eating,” said Ms. Kiefer. “We want this garden to be a learning experience for the community.”
The area has benches and a small walking path so hospital personnel can enjoy the garden’s beauty. It’s not uncommon to see patients, families and doctors relaxing in the gardens in the spring and summer.
The peaceful environment promotes meditation: patients and families can relax or contemplate important medical decisions, while doctors can destress from their work. The fresh air also helps doctors refresh.
“You will be much better for your patients if you spend even just five minutes meditating out here,” said Ms. Watters. “One of the best parts of my job is seeing people’s faces light up when they see how beautiful these gardens are.”