Therapeutic Recreation supports recovery at NGH

Date issued: March 11, 2024

(Simcoe) – Imagine a place in the hospital where joy, creativity, and fun activities contribute to the healing process. This magical place exists and it can be found within the Complex Continuing Care Unit at Norfolk General Hospital (NGH), where Therapeutic Recreation is enhancing patient care. Leading this role is Elizabeth Santana, our Activation Coordinator.

(Elizabeth Santana, Activation Coordinator)

Though it may seem like it’s merely about enjoyment, Therapeutic Recreation is a vital healthcare field. It employs leisure and fun activities to enhance patients’ mental and physical health. Elizabeth is the driving force behind this therapeutic approach at NGH, developing personalized plans that significantly uplift patients’ quality of life.

Stationed at her post on 4B, Elizabeth’s committed to ensuring her patient feels valued and understood. In collaboration with a team of healthcare professionals, she crafts plans that are more than just activities. They are carefully designed steps to help patients achieve the greatest possible independence and wellness.

“Therapeutic Recreation programs provide significant therapeutic benefits, enhancing patients’ overall health and well-being,” Elizabeth explains. “These activities enable patients to socialize, as well as maintain or enhance their cognitive and physical abilities, fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome.”

Elizabeth is passionate about creating diverse programs tailored to the rehabilitation and long-term care needs of patients. Her efforts significantly impact patient care, whether it’s helping patients set therapy-related goals or reducing feelings of loneliness in times of stress. She ensures there’s an activity for every patient that brings joy and meaning to their life.

The Cognitive Games program is a perfect example of her approach. It’s more than just a source of enjoyment; it aims to enhance cognitive skills like memory and problem-solving while also fostering patient interaction.

“Seeing patients gain confidence and enjoy their leisure time, even in the hospital, is incredibly rewarding,” says Elizabeth. “The energy and joy they bring to group programs are inspiring. They make friends, support each other, and celebrate achievements together.”

Therapeutic Recreation Awareness Month in February highlighted the essential role this field plays in healthcare. Elizabeth emphasizes the importance of leisure and enjoyment in health, showcasing the transformative effect of Therapeutic Recreation on patients’ lives.

Elizabeth and the 4B team at NGH are not just caring for patients; they’re cultivating a community where healing is accompanied by joy, creativity, and connections. From dementia patients finding happiness in memory programs to individuals expressing themselves through art, the stories of transformation are moving.

As one patient expressed, “The activities are very interesting and entertaining. It keeps us from being mischievous. It helps me meet people, something I didn’t have growing up. The activities make me feel good, happy, and invigorated.” 

Volunteers like Sarah Wallace and Veronica Waslowski witness the broad benefits of these activities, highlighting how they stimulate, teach, and care for patients on many levels.

As a volunteer, I can see the meaningful difference Liz makes to the quality of life of patients on the floor.” – Sarah Wallace.

“I think it is really valuable for the patient’s overall health to have that connection with the Activity coordinator, students, volunteers, and other patients.” Their cognitive and physical health improve their well-being. It is enjoyable for me as a volunteer spending time with patients. It adds to my quality of life as well.” – Veronica Waslowski.

Let’s commend the remarkable work that Elizabeth Santana and her 4B colleagues are doing. Their dedication makes NGH a place where healing can emerge from a game, a creative project, or even a laugh. Their efforts demonstrate that Therapeutic Recreation is a crucial aspect of patient care, enhancing hospital experiences one smile at a time.