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Grounds For Healing®

A Private Refuge for Patients

Throughout history, people have cultivated gardens, knowing them instinctively as places that hold restorative powers. Recent research concludes that patients in healthcare facilities who have natural views have shorter post-operative stays, experience fewer post-operative complications and take less pain medication.

Such evidence led RWJ Hamilton to pursue a vision of building areas throughout its campus devoted to natural presentation. A partnership with the Hamilton, New Jersey-based Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) has helped fulfill this vision. An internationally recognized organization that promotes understanding and appreciation for contemporary sculpture, the campus of GFS provides examples of the restorative powers made possible through the combination of art and nature.

The partnership with GFS has resulted in four areas on RWJ Hamilton's campus that are devoted to the unification of art and nature known as Grounds For Healing®. Brooke Barrie, director and curator at GFS, and Brian Carey, landscape designer and co-founder of AC/BC Associates in New York, are the creative team behind each Grounds For Healing® at RWJ Hamilton.

RWJ Hamilton has four such gardens located throughout the campus:

  • Main entrance (Maurice Perrilli Grounds For Healing)
  • Emergency entrance
  • CINJ Hamilton (Bruce Bux Grounds For Healing)
  • Lakefront Tower

Creating a Garden
In 2001, a freestanding building designed to house The Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton) was constructed on the campus of RWJ Hamilton. The building's architecture breaks the mold of traditional healthcare settings with an area devoted to drug infusion treatments surrounded by floor-to-to-ceiling windows. Outside these windows is a private, secure garden, blocked off from public view.

With the thought that patients might be looking into this area for hours on end gave Barrie and Carey a mission of designing a space that would be simultaneously comfortable – where patients and their visitors can find solace, yet complicated – intricate enough to hold one's attention for long periods.

The design stages included valuable input from cancer patients. Barrie and Carey learned that due to the frightening and uncertain aspects of dealing with cancer, patients did not want to look at sculpture depicting figurative beauty. Patients also expressed a desire to have running water included in the garden – as much for its visual aspects as its aural aspects. The waterfall feature is both soothing and meditative.

Acting further on patient feedback, the two collaborated on displays of plants that would be deliberately abstract and invite contemplation. "Initially I thought of using medicinal plantings," says Carey "But when I researched I learned that lots of amazing cancer drugs come from little scrubby plants that wouldn't make a great-looking garden. So we made a decision to put in plants that are representative, such as birches, from which we get aspirin."

The CINJ Hamilton Grounds For Healing® includes an area smooth enough to accommodate the wheels of patient chairs so that patients may accept infusion treatments outdoors. Augmenting the Grounds are site lines with flowers that are visually pleasing yet aroma-free. Shaded areas with benches and trellises draped in wisteria offer cancer patients sun-free spots to sit. Chairs placed throughout the Grounds encourage family members to sit and spend time with loved ones.

The sculpture specifically designed for the CINJ Hamilton Grounds was commissioned from Jeffrey Maron. The large, metal piece entitled "Planetree Spirits"is constructed from a copper alloy that Maron formed, shaped and welded. Maron notes that he drew his inspiration from Hippocrates who instructed his young doctors underneath a planetree (sycamore).

Opportunities for recognition within all Grounds For Healing® at RWJ Hamilton, as well as in Grounds planned for the future, are available through the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Foundation. For more information, call 609.584.5900.

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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton Hamilton. Phone: 609-586-7900 Physician Referral: 609-584-5900.

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