Tiffany Newton, an Occupational Therapist at Craig Hospital, noticed there was something missing on the Traumatic Brain Injury floor amid the construction project. A place that once bustled during mealtimes was now quiet—and patients were missing out on the opportunity to socialize with one another over a meal.
Prior to construction, patients all gathered in the gym at mealtimes. Now, there are bistros on each floor where patients can eat, but the period of time between the closing of the gym for food services and the opening of the bistro was eye-opening for Tiffany.
“Mealtime was something that was so routine before the construction project. I didn’t really think about it as a form of therapy—but when we had a period of time where meals weren’t as a group, I really noticed how important group meals are to the success of our patients,” said Tiffany. “Gathering as a group for mealtime helps our patients work on the skills of daily living that will be essential to their success when they leave Craig.”
Tiffany noticed that by not having group mealtime, patients were missing out on key opportunities and families were missing the opportunity to meet and socialize with other families. As a way to bridge the gap, Tiffany came up with “Restaurant Night”—a weekly group meal where patients, families, and staff from across the hospital meet at the bistro and have a group meal together.
“I like to tell my patients to think of it as going to a restaurant with your friends,” says Tiffany. “We all sit down together, and patients have the opportunity to practice ordering food, serving food, self-feeding, and socializing with one another, and it gives staff an opportunity to work together as an interdisciplinary team to ensure patients are getting to work on key areas for their success.”
Restaurant Night is now a weekly tradition at Craig and is an essential activity for patients. For most people, going to a restaurant is fun and relaxing—but for people with traumatic brain injury, it can be daunting. Just as with grocery shopping, cooking, and other activities of daily living, occupational therapists like Tiffany are always looking for innovative and creative ways to help patients overcome barriers and learn how to enjoy life to the fullest.