'Recharge rooms' help ease health care workers' stress

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 2:45 PM EDT
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Health care workers around the nation are trying to navigate the overwhelming physical and mental demands of being on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

At Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, recharge rooms combine the calm of nature with technology indoors. Sights, sounds and smells from relaxing settings aim to help staff cope with the anxiety, stress and trauma they're facing.

"All of these stresses and worries that they have never thought that they would face in their health care career, it's really weighing on them," said Dr. David Putrino, the director of rehabilitation innovation at Mount Sinai Health System.

Putrino worked with the company Studio Elsewhere to design and build the space.

"What we're seeing is that in 15 minutes of being in the space, people are reporting 70%-80% reductions in their perceived level of stress, which is huge," he said.

Dr. Dayna McCarthy is an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her usual job is in sports medicine, but now she's on the front lines, taking care of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

"The anxiety is one thing, coming into it and not knowing what you're getting into and just, again, being worried about your own safety and being worried about being able to take care of the patients to the best of your ability. And then the fatigue that just sets in," McCarthy said.

McCarthy says she found the recharge room calming since she hasn’t been sleeping well.

"It gives you that chance to kind of just sit there and kinda empty your brain of everything else that it's been filled with and so focused on during the day," she said.

The rooms are voice-activated through Google Home, so workers don't touch anything, which is meant to avoid spreading infections.

Health care workers are also able to grab snacks and drinks to reenergize.