A Colorado hospital is addressing stress by reminding clinicians that it is OK to take a moment for themselves and focus only on the patient care at hand.

The idea may seem simple but it has a profound effect on people, says Diane Reinhard, DNP, MBA, MSCIS, RN, CRRN, NE-BC, vice president for patient for care services and chief nursing officer at Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO. “If we don’t protect our physicians and other caregivers from the effects of stress, then we are in some ways responsible if that results in harm to patients,” Reinhard says. “Our physicians at the bedside are working faster and longer than they have in many years, and there are shortages in some clinical domains that are predicted to only get worse, not better, in coming years.”

Craig Hospital created its Healthy Healer program two years ago to help nurses address their stress in a positive way, encouraging them to be more at ease during patient interactions and better able to focus on providing proper care. The program has been expanded to include physicians and other clinicians.

One aspect is a designated quiet room for staff who just need a few minutes to get away. “They can walk in to this space and there’s a chalkboard where they can write inspiring comments to each other,” Reinhard says. “There’s a yoga mat for stretching. It’s intentionally a very simple, quiet, calming place that only our staff have access to. It’s to reinforce that we recognize their work is hectic and we give them this really sacred space where they can take a moment to recenter.”

The Healthy Healer program also encourages physicians and staff to pause before entering a patient room and take a moment to clear their minds, purposefully orienting themselves to the patient’s needs at that moment.

The hospital has long used a chime system that rings throughout work areas at 10 minutes before the hour, originally to alert staff that the hour was almost up and they should wrap up therapy sessions and similar work. Now, the hospital also uses that chime to remind staff to pause for a moment to clear their heads.

“There are so many things going on in their minds that the risk comes when they’re just trying to juggle too much. They need to be present with that patient when they walk into the room, not thinking about all the other things that bring them stress,” Reinhard says. “We’ve heard from our staff that it makes a difference for them know it’s OK to just stop, take a minute before getting on with work.”

The hospital also offers yoga and meditation sessions twice a week for staff. After its inception, the program was taken over by the human resources department and turned into a 360-degree culture group that works to relieve stress and reward employees with things like spontaneous recognition of a department.

“It’s to constantly remind people that they have permission to stop and take a breath. We want to do whatever we can do in the moment to help with that,” she says.