By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
March 25, 2012 - Let’s face it--caring for patients can prove stressful and emotionally draining, but the Center for Nursing Renewal at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) in Philadelphia provides nurses with an opportunity to unwind and return to their units more refreshed and energized.
Victoria L. Rich, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, chief nurse executive, came up with the idea for HUP’s Center for Nursing Renewal and helped make it happen.
“It hits on a spiritual need to care for the caregiver,” said Victoria L. Rich, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, chief nurse executive, who came up with the idea while working on her doctorate degree, investigating stress and coping.
“It’s a safe place for people to renew their psyches,” Rich added. “Everyone needs a place like this.”
Rich wanted to prevent compassion fatigue and develop a healthy workplace and culture at the high-acuity academic medical center.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Nursing Renewal offers nurses a place to go and relax or have a quiet lunch. Photo credit HUP
Jean Romano, MSN, RN, director of HUP's Nursing Network Center, and the hospital’s recognition committee helped convert a former radiology area into a quiet place for relaxation, meditation and clinical wellness programs.
Members of the recognition committee had attended a conference at which caring for the professional caregiver was discussed, explained Jennie Bea, RN, BSN, OCN, nurse manager of the HUP bone-marrow transplant unit and a recognition committee member.
“It started as an idea of our chief nurse officer and blossomed with the recognition committee,” Bea said.
The hospital funded the renovation, massage chairs, televisions and computers. Additionally, people donated furniture, photos, a guided imagery video and more than 300 books for a lending library. The center offers yoga, dance, exercise and nutrition classes, all presented by fellow employees. Pet therapy volunteers visit weekly.
“People are amazed we’d consider doing something like this,” Romano said. “The nurses love it.”
The center stays open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Support staff can visit as well. About 60 people have arrived daily, since it opened in October 2011. Two-hundred forty people, in 48 teams of five, recently participated in a weight-loss contest.
“Every day, we see more people coming through,” Romano said. “Based on a preliminary survey, 42 percent have had a reduction in stress [after visiting the center].”
Nurses on Bea’s unit frequently stop by the center if they have been faced with a difficult case, such as the death of a young patient or anything else distressing, before going into the next patient’s room.
“Some people use it on their way to work to center themselves or to relax after work,” Bea said. “We’ve instilled a culture of, ‘You have to care for yourself to care for the patient.’”
Bea goes to the center nearly every day after work and said she finds it helps her debrief and leave her work concerns at the hospital and not bring them home.
A massage chair in the Center for Nursing Renewal offers a cozy, private spot to unwind.
Elizabeth May, RN, BSN, WCN, a nurse in HUP’s dermatologic surgery department, visits the center daily, for lunch followed by a massage in one of the special chairs or to exercise to a DVD. She finds if she waits until the end of her shift to workout, she’s too tired, but 20 minutes at lunch energizes her.
“It keeps me active,” May said. “I go back to work feeling great.”
Gayle Devine, RN, BSN, a nurse on the perioperative receiving unit, also goes to the center daily for a quiet lunch or a cup of coffee, to catch up on emails or use the massage chairs.
“It’s a wonderful space for us,” Mays said. “Every nurse should take their shoes off at lunch, regroup your thoughts and re-energize to complete the rest of the shift.”
Devine recalled noting a physician cafeteria when she started at HUP 16 years ago, but no special space for nurses. Now she and the other nurses have a place to go.
“To have a facility, as large as we are, validate nursing and show we are important and cared for by our medical board [and administration] is wonderful,” May said. “All facilities should strive to get a nursing renewal center. I’d like to see it everywhere, because it is wonderful.”
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