Written by Catherine Danko, originally published on UHN on the Go: June 2022.

The garden at Toronto Rehab’s Bickle Centre has always been meaningful to patients, but after a busy year, it’s also proved to be especially beneficial for staff.

Since Bickle’s GROW (Garden Rehab on Wheels) started in 2016, patients and staff have had the opportunity to assist with the planting, watering, and harvesting of vegetables in a wheelchair accessible garden, which they later get to cook with.

Kamal Sanan, a patient at Bickle, and Maria Brink, OTA/PTA show the plants some love (and water)

Susan Currie, an occupational therapist who coordinates planting of the garden, says the opening of this year’s garden couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s been aligned with the implementation of UHN’s new health information system from Epic, which is supercharging clinical transformation.

With the implementation being nearly two years in the making, Susan acknowledges that the garden offers many positive benefits on the mental health of staff members across Toronto Rehab, from stress-relief to positive interactions with colleagues.

“Gardening is relaxing for us,” she says. “It gives us a chance to engage with other staff that we might not usually see and a chance to get outside and be involved in our community.”

All staff members across Toronto Rehab are invited to join, and do not need to have any prior gardening experience to lend a helping hand.

“It’s a fun therapeutic activity that is meaningful for both patients and staff,” says Jennifer Ireland, an occupational therapist at Bickle Centre. “It’s wonderful to witness such enthusiasm and creativity and to know that the garden is enjoyed all season by active and passive participants.”

Patients can get involved in the gardening process in any way they choose, whether it’s planting, watering, decorating garden boxes or picking vegetables.

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