At Meritus, a new place for workers to relax

HAGERSTOWN — It’s not a typical 9-to-5 job.

Instead, it’s one that encompasses life-threatening injuries and illnesses, families who need comfort during difficult times, tight schedules, long hours, high expectations, sirens and emergencies.

Each day can bring new stresses, accompanied by migraines, difficulty sleeping and changes in attitudes and behavior.

Hospitals are busy, demanding places and Meritus Health Medical Center is no exception.

But for a few minutes each day, employees can surrender their beepers, iPhones, laptops and stethoscopes and walk into a world of tranquility.

And in doing so, they not only are able to take better care of the patients who come through the medical center’s doors. They take care of themselves.

It’s a relaxation room — a place where, during specified hours, Meritus workers can step back from their harried routine, sit quietly, have a refreshing beverage or receive educational information on a variety of wellness topics.

Located within the Behavioral Health Services and Employee Assistance Program office on the Meritus Medical Campus, the room is primarily used by hospital employees and their family members. It also is open to employees from other community organizations who have contracted with the EAP.

Those regional contracts impact 9,000 households, said Donna Damazo Butler, Behavioral Health Services and EAP clinical manager.

The service began last year when Meritus Health expanded its Employee Wellness Initiative and, since then, has been offered every few months.

The goal of the relaxation room is simple: to reduce stress among employees by providing a quiet place to come and relax during their day, said Butler and Julie Kugler-Bentley, EAP coordinator and counselor.

According to the women, research has shown that even 10 minutes of relaxation during a hectic afternoon helps employees to be more productive and decreases overall stress.

In addition to offering relaxation, the room serves a second purpose of providing wellness information and handouts, Kugler-Bentley said.

“To fully represent the room and its purpose, we really like to add the word ‘resource’ to the relaxation room. Each time we have had the relaxation room, we have focused on a different topic,” she noted.

Past topics have included seasonal affective disorder and summer stress, including routine changes, scheduling time off from work and how to cope when children are home from school. There also was a session geared toward helping employees settle in following the move to Meritus.

Butler said the EAP also has a counselor available during open times “in case there are questions, special requests for additional information on topics or if they just need to talk to someone.”

She noted that no reservations are necessary to visit the relaxation room.

“It is just a drop-in [situation] because with busy schedules it’s what works best for employees and their families,” she explained.

Since the relaxation room became available, Butler said “feedback from participants has been so positive, we are working with our other contracting organizations in the region to set up rooms like this at their own locations. We’ve also offered to help staff the rooms during the initial period for those with direct EAP contracts.”

She said Behavioral Health Services is always trying to improve community health and programs.

“So, our next plans in the EAP wellness area include the development of some mobile resource/relaxation stations, which could be moved to different parts of the medical campus or to other community employers,” she said.

Butler said another session will be offered in October with the focus again on seasonal affective disorder, followed by holiday stress management in December.


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