Alexandra Broadbent is an OT based in the Intermediate Care Residential Rehab Units within the Bolton Foundation NHS Trust Intermediate Tier Services. Here she explains the introduction of health and wellbeing rooms implemented throughout the Trust to help both patients and staff.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on NHS health professionals and care workers. Now, more than ever, the health and wellbeing of health and social care workers matters. The World Health Organisation (2012) highlighted that “a health-promoting and protecting culture” whereby managers and workers work together is key in providing a healthy workplace.  

Towards the end of 2019, the Intermediate Care Bed Based Occupational Therapy Service in Bolton NHS Foundation Trust developed a Health and Wellbeing Room which soon became known as The Lavender Room due to its scenic lavender wall wrap and lavender plants. The purpose of the room was to provide a private, welcoming space for both workers and patients to retreat to, absent of any work-related paraphernalia, and designed to allow time for reflection and to promote relaxation and mindfulness. Mindful Mondays soon followed where an occupational therapy-led, guided meditation and relaxation session was available for both patients and staff to attend. The response to these sessions was overwhelming, with patients and colleagues reporting they had never felt more relaxed. Therapeutic herbs were used including lavender, thyme and mint to provide sensory elements to relaxation.  

The motivation for creating a health and wellbeing space in the workplace came after I returned from maternity leave. The challenges which came with such a transition, regardless of the fantastic support from colleagues, were difficult to overcome at times. I have always been passionate about health and wellbeing in the workplace and wanted to do something practical to promote self-care at work. I spoke with my team leader and suggested that we could transform the small family room into a health and wellbeing room. The room would be designed to create a safe and welcoming space where both colleagues and patients could retreat to.  

lavender roomThe layout of the room was small with a window facing a courtyard garden. It had blackout blinds and comfortable seating. It later had a lavender wall wrap with a lavender field scene. To further promote a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere, we purchased a light projector, a speaker, and some sensory paints. The room was used by staff as a safe space to escape for some quiet time where needed. It afforded more comfort and privacy than the staff room or toilets.

Many of the patients on the units complained of boredom and frustration of being “stuck” in the same four walls, despite having activities and therapy interventions available to them. When offered the chance to take part in mindfulness and guided relaxation sessions in the Lavender Room, I was surprised by how many were enthusiastic to get involved. The small space was perfect to enhance the mindful and relaxing atmosphere for relaxation sessions and we were able (pre-pandemic) to facilitate sessions for up to four patients at a time. Staff were also invited to join in too.  

We obtained feedback from staff and patients who were involved in the sessions and the response was great. Participants enjoyed the sensory aspects including the ocean waves light projector; the sounds including birdsong, ocean waves and a woodland stream, and the visualisation and imagination that came with the guided relaxation. Other feedback highlighted the enjoyment gained from having the opportunity to feel relaxed and calm and to focus on breathing. Many of the participants said they hadn’t thought of relaxation as an activity before and were glad to be involved.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many similar rooms were set up throughout the Trust to provide a space to break away and to encourage self-care. The idea that there is a designated space welcoming staff to engage in self-care is key. Often workers feel that having time out is “taboo” and “frowned upon” in the work place. However, when needed it can be crucial in increasing productivity and job satisfaction, as well as promoting wellness and motivation in the workforce.

Article originally published in the Nov/Dec issue of The OT Magazine.

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