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'I just need a space to cry.' How hospitals have set up places where nurses can recharge

Sue Arrowsmith, Miami Herald on

Published in Health & Fitness

MIAMI -- Caring for very sick children daily can be emotionally taxing, even for professionals with years of experience. As front-line workers who also support grieving parents, nurses often cope with chronic stress.

To help support their nurses, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital recently created two serenity spaces in the oncology and ICU departments, where staff can go to regroup, unwind and reflect, even if just for a few minutes in the day.

“We really needed a space to decompress and reset,” said Peggy Townsend, a pediatric oncology nurse for over 20 years and now service line administrator in the hospital’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

The new spaces are painted in pastel colors and decorated with wall art, plants, reading and coloring books. They are also equipped with zero-gravity massage chairs. Staff can plug in their devices and listen to music or watch a show. Sometimes it’s just a quiet space to cry.

The idea for the serenity spaces came to life during a listening session.

“We asked nurses, ‘How can we help? How can we support you?’ I’ll never forget one nurse who said, ‘I just need a space to cry and prepare to take care of the rest of my patients,’ ” Townsend said.

 

Townsend, who was director of nursing in the oncology unit at the time, gave up her office to create the first Mia’s Serenity Space. The hospital unveiled it last March during a ceremony that included golfer Camilo Villegas and his wife, Maria Ochoa, who have generously funded the serenity spaces through their organization, Mia’s Miracles, in honor of their late daughter Mia.

The hospital is working with the couple to create additional similar spaces in other departments.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital also launched two new programs to help nurses and other staff deal with the emotional demands of the job.

In October 2020, the hospital implemented Project D.E.A.R., which stands for Debriefing Event for Analysis Recovery and allows nurses and other staff the opportunity to have structured debriefings following critical events. The sessions facilitate conversation, sharing of resources and allow for emotional processing.

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