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Bedside Nature Activities
by Charles A. Sourby, MS Ed. CTRS-HTR
Using Nature activities at bedside enhances
therapeutic recreation programs in health care settings. This implies
using nature activities in indoor settings to facilitate treatment
goals. As therapists, we are concerned with enriching & expanding
coping skills using this novel environment, thus adding to the
individual’s capacity for enjoyment. We try to “excite” the
participant to learn by providing an active, stimulating educational
transfer where preferred learning style can be magnified. We seek
to stimulate natural curiosity and thinking ability through certain
games, activities, challenges, crafts & sensory awareness.
Bedside Nature activities seek to develop a program that promotes
knowledge & understanding of the natural world.
We strive to develop an awareness, appreciation & affection for Nature.
Borrowing from environmental education, we hope to develop a desire upon fundamental
understanding to protect, safe guard, and use wisely the living and non-living
resources of the Earth. Environmental education & therapeutic recreation
activities at bedside seek to promote wholesome & productive activity.
We seek to add a new dimension to physical as well as mental health.
We can provide participants with opportunities to discover abilities, increase
empathy and appreciation, and address clinical goals as part of a larger therapeutic
plan. A bedside Nature program enhances academic, social and aesthetic growth
of all individuals.
We try to encourage participants to develop a concern for others and a sense
of personal awareness through “direct experience”. The primary
emphasis is the greater use of natural materials as a learning resource. We
are always looking for that teachable moment. Learning is an interdisciplinary
as well as multidisciplinary activity encompassing many aspects of the natural
world. Thus, bedside Nature activities enhance learning and can act as a life
enrichment process enabling all to further appreciate and understand the world
in which they live.
Sometimes it seems like clinicians, are at a loss trying to teach environmental
education at bedside. We may ask ourselves why teach those who are “too
sick” or confined to a hospital bed due to illness. Regardless, we try
to address basic the human appreciation of the scent, color or texture of a
flower, the shade of a tree, the taste of fresh water and the warm sun upon
our face; for that alone we share the natural world for people who cannot any
longer participate in outdoor activities.
Ideally one has access to a fully equipped Nature room, a decent budget, and
a recreation therapist who is motivated and excited about Nature. The Nature
room is where you can keep supplies for visiting patients at bedside. One needs
a rolling cart to bring materials to the patient room. The patient’s
room needs a bulletin board to place reminders & projects. A patient who
participates in bedside interventions benefits from having his or her room
decorated thematically. Using photographs, diagrams and completed projects
so the therapist can reinforce session outcomes.
For bedside activities that require the use of soil mix or other dirt producing
byproducts, a Rubber Maid “tidy-tray” can be helpful to collect
debris and help keep the bed area clean. The therapist often uses a rolling
Nature cart for bedside visits that contains a sample of items from the natural
landscape. This provides a link to the outside world and can include flowers,
leaves, stones, bark and any other suitable material. A CD player of natural
sounds is also good to have on hand.
Ultimately, bedside Nature activities increase our repertoire as recreation
therapists. Nature supplies are available through out the year just outside
of the facilities in which we work. By focusing on Nature, we greatly enhance
the environment in which our clientele live and heal.
Approaches to Bedside Nature
1. Determine what population you are
2. Go through you resource material and select activities that seem appropriate.
3. Organize these activities into a specific format or schedule. Make any necessary
changes pr modifications in the activities that will help the participant succeed
4. Remember that anybody shies away from activities that seem too hard or threatening.
5. Meet participants “where they are at.”
6. Natures encompass a diverse range of activities: a general, well rounded
program is possible for any population.
7. Be flexible: have a back-up activity.
8. Be sensitive: keep an open mind.
9. Show enthusiasm: it’s catching.
10. Keep focused on projects at hand
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