Nurses’ Soothing Escape Produces Higher Levels of Well-Being, Retention, and Engagement

By Carol Davis

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Serenity Lounges—break rooms equipped with massage chairs, aromatherapy oils, artwork, and other soothing amenities to provide a respite from nurses’ demanding work—are proving to be effective in nurse well-being, staff engagement, and retention rates.

Since the first Serenity Lounge opened during the COVID-19 pandemic, 13 more have opened throughout the medical center, says Melanie Barone, RN, MSN, associate nursing director and co-creator of the Serenity Lounge initiative.

Nurses who used a massage chair in a quiet room for as little as 10 minutes experienced mental and emotional relief, allowing them to return to patient care better equipped to handle the stress, according to a study by Barone and Cedars-Sinai nurse Florida Pagador, RN, MSN, published in the American Journal of Nursing.

“Specifically, we found that using the massage chair for 10 to 20 minutes is the most effective,” Barone tells HealthLeaders. “Being in the chair at least 10 minutes shows the most reduction, so you don’t need to be in it for 40 minutes. If they use it more than 20 minutes, it didn’t have an impact, which I thought was really interesting.”

“Specifically on my unit, prior to implementation of the lounges, our turnover rate was about 4%. After the lounges, we went about six months achieving our goal, which was less than a 2% turnover rate, and we actually went 0% for five months,” she says.

Retention rates have seesawed, but not because of stress and burnout, Barone says. “I have lost some staff, but it’s usually because of life circumstances, such as moving back home to take care of family or things along those lines,” she says.

Staff engagement scores also have continued to rise since implementing the lounge, she says.

“It was pretty good before—in the 70s—and now we’re at 86 for staff engagement and it comes down to the culture here: ‘You are supported. Your mind, body, and soul are cared for by our team. We are making it a priority for our staff.'”

A place to recharge

The first Serenity Lounge opened when Pagador expressed a need for relaxation from her demanding duties during breaks.

“I needed a place to relax and recharge, so I pitched the idea and we got to work,” she says.

Pagador and Barone found an underused locker area, gave it a makeover, and established the first lounge. As the pandemic continued, more Cedars-Sinai nursing teams created their own Serenity Lounges, which have gathered attention and inquiries from nursing professionals throughout the United States.

Success in well-being, retention, and engagement is due not only to the Serenity Lounges, Barone says, but to the larger care culture at Cedars-Sinai.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.