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Recharge Room Helps Frontline Staff Destress

Published on Jul. 08, 2021

Soothing waterfalls, an ocean scene, taking a ride through the stars – these soothing environments can be found in a “recharge room” launched in early June on Munson Medical Center’s A3 critical heart care floor as a means for unit staff to destress.

“A recharge room offers more than a typical relaxation room. It provides an immersive environment which involves the senses and mimics the experience of being in nature,” said Kathryn Christian, a hospital chaplain and the one whose vision for the room continues to hone the experiences it offers.

Ways to Destress
Kathryn said when the COVID-19 pandemic began and the stress on front-line staff became evident she started thinking about ways to help staff destress. As the new year dawned in 2021, she came across a web seminar that talked about recharge spaces at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She emailed Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Director of Rehabilitation Innovation David Putrino, PhD, to find out more about the rooms. He sent back information about what the hospital was doing.

Kathryn then brought the idea to Chief Nursing Officer Tami Putney, Plant Engineering Director Rob Richardson, and Kim Garlington who at that time was working in a role with Human Services to encourage and support staff during the pandemic.

“They were all interested in helping to build a space here at Munson Medical Center,” she said. An email from Tami to unit managers resulted in A3 Manager Kylie Kaderka, RN, offering a room on her floor next to the waiting area. Kathryn then began working with Plant Engineering and others to transform the room into a space that transports the visitor into an outdoor environment via artificial plants and beautiful moving scenery projected on the wall. A chair, pillows, soft lighting, and a couch to kick back on help support the journey.

“The projection of a nature scene tricks the brain into thinking that you are outside,” Kathryn said. “So, that is what truly elicits a lower blood pressure, heart rate, and regenerates and allows them to go back and be helpful.”

Project and Plants
During her initial efforts to find what she needed, audio visual specialist Jeff Kamper found a hospital projector available for temporary use. Kathryn had just one artificial plant, so she sent an email to the owner of Traverse City’s Golden Fowler furniture store telling him about the project and asking if he might donate a few items.

“He was so gracious and right away said ‘yes, meet me today,’” Kathryn said. She immediately took a trip to the store. “He met me at the door and said take whatever you want. I picked three beautiful plants. He would have given me whatever I asked for. He has a daughter-in-law who is a nurse here.”

Kathryn hopes to find more support in the community that might allow the room to be upgraded with a $3,000 smart projector. The smart machine would respond more accurately to voice commands such as “Google, show me stars” than the current projector does. One user’s recent command for a star trip, brought up the late singer Karen Carpenter of the 70s group The Carpenters.

“Down at the University of Michigan they just designed a recharge space about three or four months ago and it was supported by three or four families who heard about it and they bought a projector and donated about $8,000,” Kathryn said. “I am sure there will be people in our community who want to support it once they know about it.”

Reviews: 'In love with this space'
The room is now open to all staff after being tested on a trial basis by A3 staff. Those A3 staff who have used the room give it a thumbs up. A box for reviews contains feedback that stress levels dropped significantly after their 15-minute sessions.

One user wrote: “Yes, this is great, I am in love with this space. Being able to have our own space to be alone is perfect, thank you.” Another user indicated their stress level went down from “six” to “two” on a six-point scale. Another wrote that stress went from a “five” to “zero.”

“It was a great place to rest during my migraine,” wrote another user.

“As COVID-19 slows down I think we will still have a need to destress. It’s about working in an environment that has a lot of output and care giving. People need a place to be fed during the day even for five or 10 minutes,” Kathryn said. “Some people only have five minutes, which I think still could be helpful.”

Those interested in learning more about the program and potential fundraising efforts can email Kathryn at