Hospital Recharge Rooms Provide Respite for Healthcare Workers
By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, Contributor
Imagine this scenario…
Light scents of sandalwood, lavender and chamomile waft through the air. You are surrounded on all sides by lush green plants and foliage. Peaceful scenes draw you in, and the lull of nature sounds fill your ears. You feel your breathing begin to slow as your body relaxes…..
This is what it’s like to step into one of the hospital recharge rooms that are being established at facilities throughout the country, helping healthcare professionals on the front lines of patient care to take a break, rest, de-stress and reenergize.
Understanding the importance of taking care of healthcare professionals and providers, hospitals and healthcare systems are zoning in on the importance of wellness tools for healthcare providers. Recharge rooms are one way to help caregivers take care of themselves, providing a respite from the stress and trauma they face throughout their shifts.
But do they work? So far, these calming environments are showing promising results in mitigating stress levels and helping providers cope.
Combining Science, Technology and Experiential Design into Wellness
David Putrino, PT, PhD, director of innovation for the department of wellness and resilience at Mount Sinai Healthcare System in New York, is the brains behind the environment that is helping hundreds of clinicians find some relief amid the chaos.
Developed in collaboration with Studio Elsewhere, an experiential design firm, the recharge rooms at Mount Sinai feature a variety of elements designed to change the physiology and lower stress levels of users.
When the wave of coronavirus patients hit New York in March, Putrino identified a way to put his vacant 3,000-ft. clinical research space to use by converting it into a respite for exhausted and stressed healthcare workers. Within 24 hours of contacting Studio Elsewhere, Putrino and his team put their ideas to work and created a recharge center, with multiple rooms and rest areas.
“All of the features of the room are backed by science,” Putrino explained. “The underlying principle here is that space is never neutral – it hurts or it helps. We wanted to make sure that everything that we were using was specially curated to relieve stress. We are bringing all of the scientific research together to create this very holistic experience that is highly immersive.”
Harnessing the healing power of nature, for individuals and teams
The environment features a robust visual experience with nature scenes circulating, and beautifully-detailed silk plants are used for infection control purposes. Custom composed music and natural scents are used to further enhance the calming and relaxation that the room cultivates.
The features in the room are voice-activated by Google Home, so workers don't touch anything, which helps to avoid spreading infections.
“We have rooms of different sizes. Small rooms for private, individual experiences and larger rooms where teams of up to six can enjoy the experience together while maintaining appropriate social distancing,” Putrino noted. “We have found that the overwhelming majority of users prefer to experience the rooms together. We use an online booking system to make sure that the rooms don’t get crowded or lines don’t start forming.”
Evidence of Improvements from Recharge Rooms
The recharge rooms are giving healthcare workers space to process their emotions so they can go in and provide the best care possible to all patients, especially those affected by the coronavirus.
Putrino and his team have received excellent feedback from clinicians at the facility, with some commenting that after visiting the room, they feel completely transported and not even in a hospital anymore.
To find out if the hospital recharge room was truly making an impact, the team recently conducted a survey of 240 users. Using a self-reported, perceived stress measure, they found that just 15 minutes in the room resulted in an average 60 percent reduction in stress.
“In a fairly sizable sample, we are seeing really impactful results on acute stress,” he said.
Providing access to additional wellness resources
At St. Tammany Health System (STHS) in Covington, Louisiana, the facility has a recharge room for for healthcare workers to enhance their wellness and to help them have a brief respite with uditory and visual features. The room is part of the STHS Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Clinicians who use the room will also find other EAP resources. for those in need of further assistance and support, including ways to connect with a therapist or counselor.
In addition to creating recharge rooms, hospitals are putting together a number of wellness resources and tools to help their healthcare providers during this unprecedented time. Mount Sinai provides healthy snacks and meals, meditation classes, virtual fitness classes, chaplain services, clinical assistance and other offerings aimed at ensuring clinicians have the support when they need it most.
The idea of hospital recharge rooms is not necessarily new; many hospitals implemented similar spaces prior to the pandemic. Some were known as OASIS rooms—which stands for Opportunity to Achieve Staff Inspiration and Strength—such as the one at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware. Yet the need for these types of retreats has never been greater today as healthcare professionals face long hours, stress and worry as they face the current pandemic.
Since implementing Mount Sinai’s recharge room at the end of March, Putrino has received interest from other facilities looking for guidance on creating their own sanctuaries. Locally, Beth Israel and Mount Sinai West have already implemented their own recharge areas.
Seeing what frontline healthcare workers are going through, all over the world, Putrino is pleased to be part of the solution to helping them through this incredibly traumatic time.