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Health Center staff use green thumbs to beautify courtyards

by Chris DeFrancesco - August 25, 2008


This spring, a few dozen Health Center employees made it their mission to beautify the second-floor courtyards.

Before long, what started with some clearing of old branches and unsightly plants turned into a friendly competition. Employees from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine worked on the south courtyard, while transportation aides and staff from the Dempsey Hospital Cardiac Stepdown Unit tended the north courtyard.

As the plants filled out, each side tried to one-up the other, with decorations, outdoor furniture, and other grounds improvements.

“People were coming in early, staying late, so they could work in the yards, coming out on their breaks,” says nursing manager Debra Abromaitis. “It’s wonderful to see so much pride in their workplace. They take it very seriously.”

They took it so seriously, they called in two master gardeners from the Farmington Garden Club to judge each courtyard.

“The patients love it, they’re at peace here,” says Maritza Barta, an administrative program assistant in the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, speaking from the courtyard facing the cardiac stepdown patient rooms.

“And as employees, we look forward to coming out here to relax.”

Medical technologist Lucy Nadeau says, “Our jobs are very stressful, so it’s nice to have a place you can go to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate. And think of the patients and visitors here. This gives them someplace to go to relax and unwind. The garden has been deliberately designed to be a serene and tranquil place.”

Each “team” has about 20 employees, who take turns watering, pruning, and maintaining the courtyards’ appearance.

Master gardener Marjorie Bingham, far right, reviews a courtyard garden with staff at the Health Center.
Master gardener Marjorie Bingham, far right, reviews a courtyard garden with staff at the Health Center.
Photo by Chris DeFrancesco

“Everybody put in a little something,” says transportation aide Howard Fairley.

“Somebody watered it one day when a person couldn’t be there, somebody did a little weeding when someone couldn’t do it. It was about beautifying the garden for the patients, the employees, and the patients’ loved ones, and it boosted morale.”

Transportation aide Bernadette Serafin says, “I think the project brought people from many departments closer. They seemed excited, closely following the progression of the gardens, noticing even the smallest changes. Many offered to help, and donated plants and time.”

The master gardeners, Marjorie Bingham and Margaret Bliss, visited July 11. They studied both courtyards, took notes, deliberated at one of the picnic tables, then joined the green-thumbed employees who had gathered, to announce their findings.

“These are both very beautiful gardens,” Bingham said, before declaring the courtyard maintained by transportation and cardiac stepdown staff the winner.

“When you work in the hospital and you see the afflictions and sickness of the patients,” says Fairley, “you want to contribute a little something more.”

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