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HUP nurses find oasis across the street from Philadelphia hospital

Jean Romano, RN

Before the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, created its Center for Nursing Renewal, Kathleen Cassidy, RN, BSN, CCRN, would grip the steering wheel tightly on her drive home after each shift.

As the nursing clinical coordinator and a member of the rapid response team, she deals with clinical emergencies and families of patients who are dying.

“Sometimes I would carry the angst” home after work, said Cassidy, a nurse for 12 years. “I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for eight hours and need to breathe.”

HUP’s Center for Nursing Renewal boasts comfortable surroundings, including a meditation room and a relaxation room with massage chairs. • The center also includes a lending library of more than 300 books.

But the hospital’s Center for Nursing Renewal — a former radiology suite that has been renovated with massage chairs, rooms for exercise classes and a computer cafe — gave her and other nurses a place to decompress after a difficult day or emotional situation.

“I can say to my husband, ‘How was your day?’ instead of ‘Listen to me about mine,’” Cassidy said.

Amenities for stress reduction

The center, which opened in October and operates from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., is a short walk across the street from the hospital’s main building. The center’s organizers were unsure initially whether staff would take time to walk there, but “we really were shocked how it took off immediately,” said Jean Romano, RN, MSN, NE-BC, director of the hospital’s Nursing Network Center.

Photo courtesy of HUP
The center also includes a lending library of more than 300 books.

Upon entering, nurses first notice the center’s front desk and a computer cafe with three cubicles.

The waiting room of the former radiology suite has become the home of a large saltwater fish tank and a place where volunteers lead Zumba classes or nurses participate in exercises played on DVDs on a 72-inch TV, Romano said.

A relaxation room has three massage chairs that are programmed to give 15-minute massages and have guided imagery of scenery set to soothing music, she added. The rooms also have low light and battery-powered candles.

A meditation room has a massage chair and often is used by nurses who need time alone. Cassidy sometimes takes a minute in the meditation room to “sit and decompress” before she goes home, she said.

Kathleen Cassidy, RN

The center has a vending room with a microwave and refrigerator, plus a 10-person meeting room and a lending library of about 300 books on a variety of topics, Romano said.

Caring for caregivers

The idea for the center developed from the thoughts of Victoria Rich, RN, PhD, FAAN, that the hospital staff needed to show its nurses that it cares about them. So Rich, who serves as HUP’s CNE, used her experience in nurse administration and studying nurses’ stress, coping and burnout to ask the hospital’s COO and CEO to approve the idea.

“They didn’t blink,” she said.

Photo courtesy of HUP
From left, RNs Jennie Bea, Noreen McHugh and Kirsten McClintock spend time in massage chairs in HUP’s Center for Nursing Renewal.

The nurses designed the center, and the hospital paid for it through donations, grants and money from the administration, Rich said. For example, a hospital contractor moved the fish tank for free, saving the hospital $5,000, she said.

Lower stress levels

The main service that nurses use is the relaxation room, Romano said. After surveying nurses before and after the center opened, the hospital has seen a 42% decrease in stress levels on a rating scale of one to five, she said.

That can translate into better patient care.

“If you’re upset, you’re more [likely] to miss something,” Cassidy said.

The center can be especially helpful for younger nurses who need guidance from mentors during difficult situations, such as patient deaths, Cassidy said. “When they have their first patient death, it really shakes them,” she said.

One nurse experienced a patient death only two weeks after orientation. Cassidy took the nurse to the center and had her spend 15 minutes alone in the meditation room. Then they sat in a conference room and went over what happened. Through that conversation, Cassidy was able to tell the nurse that she had done everything she could.

That reassurance wouldn’t have been possible without the center.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do that on the unit because it’s too busy,” Cassidy said.

Future of the center

The center is in one of the hospital’s older buildings that is slated for demolition in a few years. But Rich said she hopes by the time the center’s building is closed, the concept of caring for caregivers will be so ingrained in the hospital’s culture that a new center will be built in a new location.

One way they are working on that culture is to add programs, including Doctors’ Day, in which physicians will be invited to have free hand massages at the center, Rich said. By including physicians and adding more stakeholder support, it’s more likely the hospital will continue its support, Rich said.

“It has really touched the hearts and souls of us,” she said. •

Karen Long is a freelance writer.

By | 2020-04-15T09:40:05-04:00 May 1st, 2012|Categories: Philadelphia/Tri-State, Regional|0 Comments

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