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Three healthcare workers relax in a Recharge Room
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Frontline hospital employees have worked through stress, anxiety and fear to deliver extraordinary patient care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as the pandemic eases in the US, promoting employee wellness is an ongoing focus for the healthcare industry — especially for hospitals.

To that end, Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) is bringing innovative stress relief to hospital employees in New York City (NYC) as part of its Recharging Employee Wellbeing Collaborative. GNYHA is a trade association with more than 160 member hospitals and health systems in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island

Thanks to funding from the Barclays COVID-19 Community Aid Package, GNYHA will be installing Recharge Rooms in 15 NYC hospitals. These immersive spaces, developed and designed by bio-experiential design firm Studio Elsewhere, provide employees with a multi-sensory experience integrating immersive visuals, lighting, aroma and music to mitigate anxiety, stress and support social connection.

“Ensuring employee health and wellbeing is a bedrock priority for our members because working in healthcare during the pandemic has been so incredibly stressful,” says Jenna Mandel-Ricci, Vice President, Regulatory and Professional Affairs for GNYHA.

Since the program’s launch in the fall of 2020, conference rooms and storage areas have been transformed into Recharge Rooms at 11 of GNYHA’s member hospitals in NYC, with the remaining four opening soon. Employees can choose from a menu of multisensory experiences to support relaxation, cognitive restoration and alertness. These 10-15-minute experiences consist of immersive visuals and original music scores paired with aromatherapy and soothing lighting. “The nurturing spaces offer a respite from the demanding healthcare environment,” says GNYHA’s Cassandra Pineda, the project manager for the recharge initiative.

The Recharge Rooms are the cornerstone of GNYHA’s new wellbeing collaborative, which will help participating hospitals expand their employee-focused health and wellbeing strategies through a yearlong collaborative process. “The focus on wellness strongly aligns with Barclays’ efforts to support mental health initiatives for hospitals’ workers, who have gone above and beyond for our communities throughout the pandemic,” says Deborah Goldfarb, Global Head of Citizenship for Barclays.

With Barclays’ financial support, GNYHA is particularly interested in aiding the association ’s independent safety net hospitals. “These hospitals are not part of a larger health system and therefore do not have access to the same level of resources,” Mandel-Ricci explains. “And they’re often located in vulnerable communities that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

So far, the Recharge Rooms have received rave reviews from staff. Studies of Studio Elsewhere Recharge Rooms in other NYC hospitals demonstrate that after a single 15-minute visit, participants experienced a 60% reduction in self-reported stress levels.

“I cannot emphasise enough what a gift this has been for employees,” notes Pineda. “Typically, every resource these hospitals have goes towards their patients. The employees are just floored to have this for themselves.”

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