Working in the emergency department at a major hospital like Vancouver General can be incredibly demanding at the best of times, but during a pandemic like COVID-19, stress can rise to levels that workers have never encountered before.
Now, in an effort to tackle these struggles, the VGH’s head nurse educator Lara Gurney said a new space – a time-out area of sorts – has been created for frontline workers at the hospital.
“People were coming in feeling anxious even before their workday had started,” said Gurnery. “There was a lot of fear going around, but we all still needed to come in to care for our patients and to support our colleagues. We had to do something – fast.”
That something turned out to be a collaborative effort with colleagues in which Gurney converted a conference room into a time-out space dubbed the “Wobble Room,” where staff can come in to unwind, to vent, or to connect as needed, at any time of day.
Inspired by similar spaces in UK hospitals, the bright, quiet room allows up to six people to gather while maintaining physical distancing, according to Gurney. A large-screen TV with Zoom capabilities is available, and there is an encouragement wall for staff to communicate positive or inspirational thoughts to one another.
“The COVID-19 crisis can be overwhelming for frontline workers and so maintaining staff safety and wellness are key,” says Gurney, a UBC nursing graduate whose master’s thesis focused on ways to reduce fatigue and burnout among healthcare staff. “We’re saying here’s a space for you to take a moment, or to yell or cry if you want to. You can be vulnerable. You’re not alone and you don’t have to be alone.”
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The Wobble Room welcomes nurses, unit clerks, care aides, housekeeping, physicians and residents, social workers and other staff, according to project co-lead Julie Lockington, a nurse clinician.
“We come in to share updates on our work, swap stories, even jump into Zoom calls with colleagues who may not be working that day but want to show support for others on the team,” says Lockington.
“Lara and Julie and others involved in the project are making a valuable contribution to the health and well-being of frontline staff, which ultimately is important for patient health,” says Lori Quinn, patient services manager in the emergency department and a UBC nursing alumna.
“It’s important that we recognize the potential for burnout during and after the pandemic, and how important it is to implement mitigation strategies,” said Quinn. “The creation of the Wobble Room will help us be ready to deal with the situation, knowing the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint.”