The newest addition to an in-patient mental health unit is bringing hopefulness, healing and recovery to Veterans. It’s at the Orlando VA Medical Center in Lake Nona, Orlando.

Orlando VA recently partnered with the Armed Forces families Foundation to transform extra space into a tranquility garden. The thoughtful design was conceptualized with special attention to safety and to bring calmness, help with sleep, and provide patients with an overall healthier environment.

Future plans for the garden are underway.

“Every single detail – from the turf, a special glue utilized to secure the turf, the planters, the organic soil, to even the edible plants inside the planters – has been handpicked by our team to ensure that Veterans are not only safe but love hanging out in the tranquility garden while the sun is shining,” said Creative Arts Therapist Sheila Johnson.

The tranquility garden concept originated from an innovation pitch to bring nature indoors and was spearheaded by Johnson.

Labor of love for all involved

Innovation Specialist Kim Bielicki explained that expert opinions and collaboration amongst staff brough the concept of the garden to life.

“The garden was truly a labor of love for everyone involved,” said Bielicki. “Everyone from the Center for Development and Civic Engagement, the Armed Forces Families Foundation, our safety team, engineering, the mental health team, the master gardener, and the current Veterans on the unit were involved in the creation of the garden.”

Johnson and others hope that the new space will help Veterans become more engaged with their care while undergoing mental health treatment.

Skills and tools for whole health approach

“The space has really started to become a place where staff and Veterans engage in fun activities, like corn hole and yoga,” said Johnson. “We are seeing significant progress in our patients and a faster reintegration and recovery process due to our new ability to bring patients out to the tranquility garden where we can teach them new skills and tools with the whole health approach in mind. We are hoping to add a few more planters, a mural to go through the windowpanes or even a new garden screen.”

The vision for the tranquility garden stemmed from an Innovation application and pitch to leadership by Johnson. Orlando VA is a proud member of  Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Innovators Network (INET). The program allows for employees to test out any new ideas and join forces with stakeholders across the Veteran community to improve the way the hospital provides care and serves Veterans. It invests in staff by providing them with the training, tools and resources needed to bring about solutions.

“The tranquility garden is a beautiful place for our Veterans. I’m grateful to the Armed Forces Families Foundation and our staff and volunteers who all helped in bringing this new space to life,” said Director Timothy Cooke. “It’s a space like no other in our facility, and one that I am sure will get a lot of use.”

By Melanie L. Thomas is the acting public affairs officer at the Orlando VA and public affairs officer for North Florida/South Georgia VA.

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Published on May. 8, 2022

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One Comment

  1. Sharon Johnson May 10, 2022 at 8:53 am

    Is this where you send all the Baker Acted female veterans after your campus police officers sexually assault them? Better suggestion would have been to turn it into an area where those patients with service dogs would be allowed to have their assistance animals with them… instead of sending their service dogs into the neglectful and abusive clutches of the nearest animal control facility.

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