Donors come together to gift ‘Recharge Rooms’ to Michigan Medicine employees

April 27, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,
Room with a video screen at the front, candles and plants.
With calm lighting, plants and visual effects, the Recharge Rooms are designed to help employees improve wellbeing.

After an exceptionally stressful year for health care workers and learners, two couples donated a total of $100,000 to U-M Nursing to fund the installation of “Recharge Rooms” in the hospital.

Ken and Kimberly Whipple and Ken and Jeanne Levy-Church gave the funds to U-M Nursing, who then partnered with Studio Elsewhere, to install three Recharge Rooms on the main medical campus.

The rooms — which will serve as “a place of calm in the middle of it all” — can be found in the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Med Inn and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Studio Elsewhere is a company that creates immersive environments to improve cognitive performance and address anxiety by creating rooms that stimulate the senses through light, sounds and scents.

The rooms, located at CVC-5331A, MIB-626 and CW-7-231, are intended to induce short-term decreases in blood pressure, stress hormones and heart rate through elements like dimmed lighting, relaxing music, abundant greenery, socially-distanced, cozy seating and tranquil imagery projected on a video wall. Future plans include featuring aromatherapy in the rooms.

The rooms will be open to faculty, staff and learners 24/7. There will not be a scheduling system to reserve space in the room at this time.

“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,” said 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.”

Two staff members wearing masks looking at a video screen.
Socially-distant seating keeps employee safe.

Improving morale

These rooms are an essential tool in improving the wellbeing and morale of Michigan Medicine employees, in which at least 25% reported experiencing symptoms of burnout. The Recharge Rooms will also provide a healing environment for small group debriefs after difficult events.

On any given day, countless clinicians look for an oasis to pause, reflect and ready themselves for the next challenge. Too many of us have done this outside patient care areas, call or work rooms, or in hallways without the privacy or intimacy needed for these critical moments,” said Vineet Chopra, M.D., M.Sc., division chief of hospital medicine at Michigan Medicine. “Having these rooms provides a much needed sanctuary for front line staff to decompress and regroup, and we’re so grateful to the donors and Studio Elsewhere for this opportunity.”

Even before the pandemic, a survey of nurses revealed the negative effects of job stress, with 62% of the sample reporting burnout, 43% feeling overwhelmed by their workload and 45% experiencing anxiety and/or depression.

“Creating time to use these rooms will require support from leaders and a culture change for many staff. It’s important these rooms are part of a larger initiative for health care workers’ wellbeing, like making schedules more flexible,” said Nancy May, D.N.P, RN-BC, NEA-BC, chief nurse executive at Michigan Medicine. “I’m eternally grateful to our generous donors who have provided this timely, much needed gift to our front-line workers.”

“Thank you, Ken and Kimberly Whipple, and Ken and Jeanne Levy-Church,” added Kathleen Robertson, director of Michigan Medicine’s Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience. “This beautiful offering will be a place to pause, find our breath, to be in the midst of beauty and to find the wisdom of stillness so we can continue to provide the best care.”

Leading the way

Welcome to the Recharge Room, a place of calm in the middle of it all. In this space, we: Pause, offer compassion and kindness to ourselves, cultivate quiet and stillness, practice presence, share in the moment with colleagues, care for the health of others by wearing masks, silence phones and pagers, refrain from eating and drinking, honor our experiences

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 New York City, 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 provide a team from U-M’s School of Nursing and Michigan Medicine’s Department of Nursing the opportunity to study the rooms’ efficacy in increasing resiliency, reducing stress and improving emotional and mental health. Data collected will inform decisions on the potential continuation of the rooms after the pandemic regresses, while also contributing knowledge on improving workplaces for institutions worldwide.

“An empirical study to learn more about how these rooms will allow health care workers to rejuvenate after great duress is compelling to us,” said Ken and Jeanne Levy-Church. “Hospitals should be warm, nurturing environments, both for patients and the staff that take care of them. This emotional, physical and mental health need has been underscored by the pandemic but the need still remains. We’re happy to help fund it.”