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Pathway to Discovery open at Cape Coral Hospital

By Staff | Nov 6, 2015

As evidenced by the state of the art Lee Memorial Health System diagnostic facility on Surfside with imaging technology that is beyond what is currently available elsewhere in the system, the new Pathway to Discovery Center at the Cape Coral Hospital proves the commitment of the Lee Memorial Health System to the city of Cape Coral and the wellness of its employees and Cape Coral residents.

Open to the public, this unique facility is one of just a few in the country and has taken several years from concept to completion of the first phase. The city recognized the Pathway to Discovery as a park within in the Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department and provided a grant to put the sidewalks in that tie all the elements together and allow residents, guests and patients and their families to enjoy an outdoor setting and get health benefits.

Consisting of a 1.3-mile campus loop, you can access anywhere on the hospital grounds from this exterior loop. Starting at the Wellness Center, there are several garden areas and a discovery path consisting of exercise stations, Teaching Garden, Healing Garden and a pond with waterfall, statues and scenic bridge. The Teaching Garden is full of edible plants and flowers that also attract butterflies so that children, especially, can come and learn about food from planting to harvesting and serving it. The Healing Garden is a circular garden hidden by beautiful plants and trees to provide a place of quiet and contemplation just outside the Women’s Center. Within the park-like setting there are trees and plants to provide a shady respite and fill the senses with the sounds and smells of nature. There are opportunities for residents to plant a tree or place a bench in commemoration of a loved one or as a family and have their mark permanently in a place of peace and healing.

There is a health bar inside the Wellness Center that is open to the public and serves smoothies (try the kale or berry), health balls and other tasty treats to take on your stroll or reward yourself after an invigorating workout on the grounds. The cafeteria has also had modifications to provide healthy meals and snacks within the hospital and is open to the public.

Scott Kashman, chief administrative officer for Cape Coral Hospital, said, “The Pathway to Discovery is a tangible way to showcase the drive to be an optimal healing environment. Proceeding along the pathway is a way to educate and focus the community on their health. The Teaching Garden was designed by therapists to take care of patients in an outdoor environment and has expanded from the original concept to include a teaching environment for children on where food comes from, how it is grown and how to get it to the table in cooperation, partnered with the American Heart Association. Steve Pullman and John Szerlag from the city of Cape Coral made it possible to have a memorandum of understanding to provide healthy lifestyle options on our campus. We designed the campus for people to build on for years to come and part of the community to provide an optimal healing environment.

“Continuing our focus on a person’s own health and well being, there are places to educate in cooperation with Lee County School District,” he said. “There are reflective places along the pond and the Healing Garden to help with mental wellbeing. The Healing Garden being located next to the Women’s Care entrance allows people to have reflective space and was donated by our Auxiliary. We want to use the outdoor space as part of the healing environment. The clinical collaboration is to focus on a healthy lifestyle and is symbolic in phase one as a foundation to build on for many years to come. “

Kashman continued, “There are hundreds of people in our community, including our employees who contributed to this pathway and it is dedicated to our employees and our physicians and volunteers to give them a place to take care of themselves while caring for our patients along with community engagement.

“Our optimal healing environment is based on the Samueli Institute, which is a quality management system to provide a holistic approach to a person’s better care. Our Pathway to Discovery is a tangible reflection of an optimal healing environment. Also, by focusing on clinical care and coordination, our Teaching Garden was designed by therapists to use with general outpatients, in patients and orthopedic patients. Secondly is to focus on our own health, wellness and wellbeing and thirdly to engage the community.”

Joany Odorizzi, healing environment business partner, is a certified nurse and is one of the partners helping to coordinate this project. According to Odorizzi, “When Scott first came we walked the campus in January 2012 and had a vision to connect the pathways together so that we create an environment for healing, wellness and wellbeing and could share with the community. Although we are a hospital, we want to be the center of the community to create an environment to feel safe and secure to come to exercise along with pathways and gardens to rest and catch our breaths. The pathways were a result of a grant from the city of Cape Coral and we are now an official park recognized by the city of Cape Parks and Recreation.”

Odorizzi continued, “We have a Teaching Garden on the Pathway to Discovery it is multipurposeful. It started as a way to attract butterflies but became so much more. We talked with Nancy Holland from the American Heart Association and through a grant that supports decreasing obesity in children and healthy eating, we were able to make it a teaching garden to have a clinical purpose involving the children to plant food, learn about it, maintain it and harvest it and then have an opportunity to serve the food they have grown and harvested. We have also incorporated a dream from the head of our rehab hospital, Christin Williams, to have an area to work with patients in natural light, so stoke victims and other orthopedic patients can have physical therapy in that area also.”

If you follow the path, there are six different exercise areas where you can get a workout and use the exercise stations with resting areas. These areas are posted to assist with the equipment. There are areas of relaxation and contemplation along the path incorporating a water fountain in a pond with statues and a picturesque bridge and leads to the Healing Garden by the Women’s Care center. It is a circular area of quiet and shade. If you are in the hospital, it is available for patients and family to come outside and destress and relax. Connected with the wellness center, the health bar is available for smoothies and healthy snacks. We have a coffee area and a healthy area in the cafeteria where you can get great healthy selections.

Odorizzi added, “Everything was developed with experts and a tremendous amount of employee input to develop a healthy environment to provide an area of connectivity, healing and wellbeing. We are a very person centered environment. The patients and their families are very important because if the patients’ family is stressed, they aren’t at their best for their families.We created this for our community, which also includes our employees, patients, patients’ families and the community at large and is a way to provide more information out to the community. Any decision we make is on healing and caring. The deeper meaning is that we have taken all input into account and we are intentionally creating this environment which is so significant because most of the employees had a part of the planning and ideas and implementation. The master gardener is a nurse (Rod Barkley), the artist who designed the painted fish entrance for the employees, Ashley Bott, is also an employee. We have had employees and artists create painted tiles to put in the ceiling to provide a restful scene for patients undergoing tests so that they have something positive to focus on.”

Odorizzi concluded, “This has been Scott’s dream since coming to the health system. He is very generous in giving back and making things happen and people feel cared for. We are the first community hospital in Florida to get the Sterling Award, which was given for our healing environment. Most importantly, we want people to look at the hospital as a resource for health in addition to fixing medical problems so that the community knows we are a source of health and staying healthy along with helping them when they are sick. I have been in nursing administration my whole life and this opportunity in this role is a dream come true and has been a marvelous experience.”

Jonathan Romine, an owner of Insight, a landscaping architectural firm in Fort Myers that provided assistance with the design and implementation, said, “I happen to live not far from the hospital. The purpose of our company is to look for long-term, sustainable solutions that are proven to be successful and looking at the oldest cities and how what we do today will have a positive effect in the future. We want people to have walkable access to parks.

“The idea of an optimal environment is more than taking care of the sick and dying but also the fit and general population,” he continued. “LMH is on the front end of a trend in talking about a health campus as not just a building but the grounds as an asset to health and educate everyone. All data shows that there is a certain significant benefit to being outdoors among nature and the healing effects they have.

Romine continued, “How do we make this a campus that you want to go to not because you need something there because of a health issue, but it makes you feel comfortable to come to and feel relaxed and part of a community facility. A lot of that revolves around greenspace and shade and allows you to experience things that you can’t always experience in suburbia. In your yard, with a house and fence and pool, you don’t have much more space to do things like exercise or enjoy nature.

“This campus will be privately owned and maintained but fully accessible to the public,” he said. “In the past two years since conception, we have completed the first phase of something much better and bigger than what we originally intended and can serve the public better and much farther into the future.

“I am very proud and humble and mostly very excited to be a part of this great project. With Cape Coral’s growing pains, we want Cape Coral Hospital to take the lead in a very positive way to reinforce, improve and provide a positive impact to the community and this is a perfect example of how health care systems can do this. I want for myself and everyone to feel a sense of relaxation, calmness, reflection and have a place where they can come to get all of that. I want people to realize that this is just the beginning of something that is extremely special and great for not only Cape Coral but all of our community to use a facility that, whether you are in the hospital or outside the hospital, you have many opportunities to serve the community in a positive way. Better connect our communities and neighborhoods it is more than a functional purpose how do we make these places attractive and serve the needs of the people?

Romine stated, “Long-term this will become a wellness campus that is nationally or internationally recognized starting with our original premise of how you turn a 40 year old hospital into a center of wellness. I think over the next five years this project will be enhanced by more pieces of the puzzle coming together to make it bigger and better with the help and support of the efforts of all, including the community to continue this growth”

Kashman concluded with this thought: “This is a movement of Cape Coral Hospital transforming into a wellness campus and promoting healthier lifestyles in addition to the services we already provide. We would like to consider Cape Coral Hospital a hospital, health system and wellness lifestyles campus and feel that this goes a long way to proving how Lee Memorial Health Systems has a commitment to setting a stronger focus on wellness and how Cape Coral Hospital is strongly committed to the city and residents of Cape Coral.”

For any additional information, or if you would like to donate to the project, contact Christin Collins, System Health and Wellness Strategic Business Partner, at 239-343-6062 or Christin.collins@leememorial.org.