Desiree Hernandez, an ambulatory care associate, leaned back in her chair and sank into it with visible relief. An automatic back massager gently rubbed her back muscles, and with her eyes half closed, she popped a fresh grape in her mouth.
“Ahhh. This is wonderful — so relaxing — I’m feeling pampered,” she said.
|Nurses Grace Yim and Kelly Lit take a break at Tea for the Soul. (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)|
Hernandez was attending “Tea for the Soul,” a regular event run by City of Hope chaplains to give nurses, physicians, technicians and other health-care specialists some respite during often hectic days. The sessions aim to provide these caregivers time to decompress and relieve stress that may build up when caring for seriously ill patients.
Researchers have shown that nurses need these opportunities to better care for themselves. Because nurses spend so much time directly working with increasingly sick patients, as well as their families, they may feel sad, helpless and out of control, researchers said. Nationwide studies have shown that nurses may often turn to smoking, alcohol and other similar damaging ways to cope with stress.
But experts note that nurses and other caregivers can use other stress-reducing techniques that help rather than harm. City of Hope’s Kate Kravits, R.N., Randi McAllister, Ph.D., and colleagues have published research showing that art therapy provides a constructive way to cope. Learning relaxation skills and developing social support can help as well, and that is where Tea for the Soul comes in.
In the conference room in 1C in the Geri and Richard Brawerman Center for Ambulatory Care on Feb. 16, chaplains Cassie McCarty, M.Div., and Terry Irish., D.Min., had everything arranged. A white tablecloth, an array of back and foot massagers, a tray of assorted teas, fresh coffee, five dozen cupcakes (see “Cupcakes” on page 3) and fresh fruit plates were ready for clinical staff. Relaxing music usually plays softly in the background.
As outpatient staff members began to arrive on their breaks, McCarty and Irish welcomed them. “How’s work going today?” McCarty asked them, gently. And the nurses shared their stories, not just with the chaplains, but with each other. Some just relaxed.
“Can I borrow this and take it back to my office?” asked registration representative Anne Watson, jokingly, as she rested her feet on a foot massager.
McCarty noted that the Tea for the Soul tradition began with a former City of Hope chaplain, but was defunct for a few years until the current Spiritual Care team — part of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center — revived it. The chaplains put on Tea for the Soul once a quarter in each of eight hospital inpatient units, which means two to three sessions at City of Hope each month. They also hold a session in the outpatient clinics twice a year. The next session will take place March 5 in 4 West.
Tea for the Soul has no better advocates than the staff themselves.
“Ohhh,” said ambulatory care assistant Kelly Parker, her back against a massager. “That’s good right there.”
Cupcakes make for a tasty way to give
Donors move in mysterious and often delicious ways.
Baking entrepreneur Denise Weber, for one, found a sweet strategy to support City of Hope. She donates gourmet treats for Tea for the Soul.
Owner of Violet’s Cakes in Pasadena, Calif., Weber specializes in creating delectable cupcakes. With the help of Kristina Pipkin, senior officer in the Gift Planning Department, Weber learned about Spiritual Care’s sessions and decided to give the best way she knows how: through sugar and spice.
Weber also has baked for other nonprofit groups. Said Weber: “I believe giving comes back to you.”