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In her role as a clinical nurse specialist at University Hospital, LaToya Freeman, DNP (pictured above), supports nurses who have seen the worst of the pandemic up close. “They’re spinning and they’re burned out,” she says. Thanks to donations from Ken and Kimberly Whipple and Ken and Jeanne Levy-Church, U-M Nursing partnered with Studio Elsewhere to install three recharge rooms on the medical campus.
With soft lighting, plants, flameless candles, and projections of natural scenes, the rooms help frontline health care providers take meaningful breaks. The immersive experience has also been proven to induce short-term decreases in blood pressure, stress hormones, and heart rate. “When you’re on the unit and trying to block out call lights and bed alarms, that can be challenging. But when you remove yourself to a place that’s dark and intimate and the only audio you hear is that of the rain forest or waves crashing on the beach, it really helps you to disconnect.”
These rooms are an essential tool in improving the wellbeing and morale of Michigan Medicine employees, of whom at least 25% reported experiencing symptoms of burnout. The Recharge Rooms will also provide a healing environment for small group debriefs after difficult events.
“Michigan Medicine has made remarkable progress in the last decade to become a leader in their field, and this is evidenced in better clinical outcomes for patients. The key to this success is dedicated and motivated staff,” says Ken and Kimberly Whipple. “Being responsible for the lives of others is a big deal, so having a safe, restful place to spend even just a few minutes to revitalize is important. We hope these rooms help improve mood and job satisfaction for health care workers here, which in turn, helps create the best health outcomes for patients, too.”
Michigan Medicine is the first hospital outside of the east coast to implement Recharge Rooms for faculty and staff. At Mount Sinai Health System in NYC where Recharge Rooms were installed after the first surge of COVID-19 cases, health care workers that utilized the space reported a 60% reduction in stress.
The gift of these Recharge Rooms also provides an opportunity to study the rooms’ efficacy in increasing resiliency, reducing stress, and improving emotional and mental health. Data collected by a team from the School of Nursing and the Department of Nursing will inform decisions on the potential long-term continuation of the rooms, while also contributing knowledge on improving workplaces for institutions worldwide.
Photos by Hunter Mitchell