Newsflash: doctors and nurses aren’t superhuman. Sure, they can fix your broken arm or help you beat cancer, but the incredible stress they face at the workplace can be taxing, and they often can’t find time to attend to their own mental and physical health needs.
A study found that doctors’ continuous exposure to stressful situations—excessive demands, long shifts—can result in burnout syndrome, a chronic stress reaction that causes caregivers to work less efficiently and can lead to potentially unsafe practices. That’s worrisome for doctors and patients alike.
To combat burnout, some local hospitals have created programs and facilities specially designed for employees to relax, reflect and rejuvenate. The newest is at HUP, where chief nurse executive Victoria Rich helped create the Center for Nursing Renewal. It features a relaxation room complete with massage chairs and soothing music, a training room with daily yoga classes, and a meditation room that provides a private space for staff to reserve alone time. To further promote a positive environment, the center allows regular visits from registered pet-therapy dogs who bring cheer to worn-out staff. The center is focused on “the world away from work” with beautiful images hung on the walls and even a tropical fish tank at the entrance to the meditation room.
Richard Cushman, a Temple University Hospital spokesman, says that Temple caters to caregivers in another way: through a Family First service. It prioritizes employees and their dependents by allocating special appointment slots in participating departments so that they may be treated as soon as possible if they have a health related concern or issue.
Employees request appointments on a separate phone line, where they’re never put on hold. All co-payments are waived for non-emergency services, and Family First aims to maximize convenience for its employees by providing free parking for employees when they come to receive care.
At Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, caregivers can take stress-management courses through its Employee Assistance Program. The Tranquility Room provides a variety of massage services at reasonable prices for staff and adult family members of patients. The hospital also has a chapel for caregivers who prefer to rejuvenate through their faith, and associates can enjoy the racquetball court and free classes at the gym open 24/7 to blow off stress and reap the benefits of exercise.
This spring, duPont staffers will have free access to the beautiful Nemours Mansion and Gardens walking trails. The hospital and mansion sit on about 300 acres, 200 of which are part of the largest formal French garden in North America. Chris Manning, a hospital spokesperson, says that the hospital has recently begun a $260 million expansion that will incorporate a number of additional opportunities for staff and families to unwind, including healing and meditation gardens.
Family caregivers may use duPont’s Family Resource Center, designed for parents to take care of their personal needs while their child is hospitalized. The center has a comfortable seating area, a business center, wireless Internet access, a library, laundry facilities, a kitchenette, shower facilities and three quiet sleeping rooms.
“Families are an important part of our care team,” says Manning. “Their health and well-being are as important as that of our paid staff.”