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A legacy of leisure at the Mayo Clinic

This is an excerpt from Foundations of Therapeutic Recreation-2nd Edition by Terry Long & Terry Robertson.

By Rodney Dieser

Year after year, the U.S. News and World Report, along with other publications, ranks the Mayo Clinic as one of the best hospitals in the United States (see Eisenman, 2014). The Mayo Clinic employs 4,100 physicians/scientists and 53,600 practitioners in allied health professions and sees more than 1 million patients each year (Olsen & Dacy, 2014).


Leisure for enjoyment has a long history at the Mayo Clinic, dating back to 1914 (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2014). “Man and Recreation,” the large sculpture on the south façade of the Mayo building, represents the importance of rest, play, joyful moments, physical activities, rejuvenation, introspection, and enjoyment of nature (Mayo Clinic, 1984). Through a cafeteria and quality-of-life programming approach, the Mayo Clinic provides a plethora of diverse leisure activities through many organizational units. For example, the Peregrine Falcon Program at the Rochester campus allows patients to view and interact with Peregrine falcons that nest on the top of the 20-story Mayo and Gonda buildings (see http://history.mayoclinic.org/tours-events/mayo-clinic-peregrine-falcon-program.php).


The art collection at the Rochester campus presents thousands of art pieces from the media of glass, textiles, paintings, prints, ancient/ethnographic/folk art, sculptures, photography, and ceramics. Internationally known artists, such as Barbara Hepworth and Ivan Meštrovic´, are represented. Each year, the Art and Ability exhibit at the Rochester campus celebrates artworks from people with disabilities.


The Center for Humanities in Medicine at the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville (Florida) campus has professional musicians perform daily concerts in hospital lounges and local artists work one on one at the bedside with patients and families, exploring creative expression (see www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/humanities-in-medicine/florida-schedule). A 56-bell carillon on top of the Plummer building on the Rochester campus is rung regularly throughout the week (Mayo Clinic, 2006); patients can sit in the many outdoor courtyards and atriums or in the Feith Family Statuary Park in the center of campus to hear this musical performance. In keeping with a strengths-based approach, sometimes called the “Mayo way . . . to look at the strengths of individuals rather than at the deficiencies” (p. 150), grand pianos are placed at certain locations on the Rochester campus so that patients can perform impromptu concerts with crowds of other patients and staff singing or listening (Berry & Seltman, 2008; see also Mayo Clinic, 2001).


The Florida campus has a large park with lakes and a bridge to Louchery Island, where patients can contemplate and reflect (Mayo Clinic, 2011). The Scottsdale/Phoenix (Arizona) campus has a one-third-mile trail that includes more than 40 species of cacti and plants, where patients sometimes encounter roadrunners, quail, or horned owls (Mayo Clinic, 2011).


The St. Mary's Hospital Patient Library, on the Rochester campus—a community-based patient library—provides DVDs, music CDs, books/audiobooks, magazines and newspapers, desktop and laptop computers with Internet access, board games, video consoles and games, and crafts for patients and their families as well as a daily morning coffee social activity (St. Mary's Patient Library, 2016).


These examples illustrate how leisure remains an inherent part of the Mayo philosophy and culture. This philosophy, linked to a community parks and recreation approach, has allowed therapeutic recreation to exist not only as a formal service within the Mayo system, but also as a fundamental element of care and the overall patient experience.