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Zen Den for Nurses

Ever hear of a "Zen Den"?

I hadn't until I read this statement in Modern Healthcare by Ann Marie Leichman, Chief Nursing Officer, Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ, on how they are handling nurse burnout:

We have created an environment here where the message is, "You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of somebody else." So we have things called Zen Dens, which are respite rooms where nurses can go for a break.  We bring (massage opportunities) up to the units.  We try to encourage staff to take care of themselves in order to avoid stress and burnout, and I think some of the things that we do have helped staff understand the connection between caring for self and caring for others.

Then I googled "zen den." I found coffee shops, yoga studios, and a crowdfunding page some nurses at Jacobs Medical Center in LaJolla, Calif., had created to raise money for things they need to equip their Zen Den.

Zen Den Needs and Wants

The space has already been painted a soft yellow and has calming lights on a dimmer switch, an underwater mural, and some furniture. The nurses' wish list includes:

  1. Three zero-gravity meditation/nap chairs
  2. Three alphasonic massage chairs
  3. Three meditation cushions
  4. Eight headphones
  5. Six throw blankets
  6. Flameless candles
  7. Two yoga mats
  8. Artwork (photos and inspirational words)
  9. Shoe rack for infection prevention
  10. Two low table storage units
  11. One Himalayan salt lamp
  12. One mirror
  13. One feng shui table fountain
  14. Two air plants
  15. One yoga posture poster
  16. One custom fluorescent sign

Providing places of respite for staff isn't a new idea. But the idea that nurses might actually use them may be new. Nurses often don't leave their unit during their shifts.

Culture Shift

Not taking a break is a culture thing -- just like not taking a vacation is in many companies.

When I worked as an editor for Contract magazine at Gralla Publications in New York City in the 1980s, there was one editor there who worked long hours and hadn't taken a vacation in like 20 years. She wore it like a badge of honor.

But I always wondered how well she was really functioning at her job.  Everyone needs a break from work.

Especially nurses.  So, if the hospital culture allows this "no respite" kind of thinking, then nurses won't take breaks.

However, with the increasing focus on finding ways to reduce nurse burnout, Zen Dens could be popping up in hospitals around the country. And maybe nurses won't have to crowdfund to get the kind of spaces they deserve.

Wouldn't that be nice?

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Leave a comment

Carolyn Johnson

6 years ago

Very interesting! We usually work with DON’s - I’m going to start asking about this.....share the concept with them.

Steven Orfield

6 years ago

Interesting concept.....any images?

Sara Marberry

6 years ago

If you click on the "crowdfunding" link, you'll see an image. But other than that, I couldn't find many!

Carole Hyder

6 years ago

Great idea, Sara. Thanks for sharing.

GG Rivers

6 years ago

We are currently creating a Zen Den for our unit and are nearing completion. The opening will take place during nurses week. I hope to encourage and promote all nurses/staff to take care of themselves and then hopefully revitalize the caring and compassionate spirit that we all have.

Sara Marberry

6 years ago

Fabulous! Where is this Zen Den you're creating?

Jen Schrock

4 years ago

What's the cost of a zen den? Who do you have to go to for approval?

Sara Marberry

4 years ago

It depends. As I said in the post, Hopkin's Tranquility Room cost $200,000. But I'm sure you could build one for less, depending on what materials, furnishings, etc. you use. Approval will vary by hospital and where the zen den is located, but I would guess you would first need approval from the nursing unit manager and possibly facilities since they would be involved in the construction, etc.

Jennifer Montoya

6 years ago

I love the idea and would like to create more custom spaces like these in the health care setting using our privacy screen dividers. We service the CA and the whole USA and Europe. This is a novel concept! I would love to speak about this!

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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