Finding Peace in a Pandemic - VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
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Finding Peace in a Pandemic

A woman who is wearing a mask over her nose and mouth sits in a chair and relaxes.

An employee with the Intensive Care Unit takes a mindful moment during her visit to the Serenity Room, which is located in VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System’s West Los Angeles (WLA) campus in building 500.

By Hanna Guthrie and Paula Mendoza
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

LOS ANGELES – Hoping to bring much-needed calm and relaxation to fellow front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nishi Jumna, Registered Nurse (RN), Intensive Care Unit (ICU), VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS), created a sacred sanctuary in her unit and is offering one-on-one holistic care sessions to VAGLAHS ICU staff. The space, called the Serenity Room, is located in VAGLAHS’ West Los Angeles (WLA) campus’s ICU in Building 500.

Amidst the beeping of monitors and the frantic movement of doctors and nurses around the ICU, the Serenity Room is like an oasis among the chaos. Open the door, and immediately you are transported to another world. The room is whisper quiet, private, and maintains a warmer temperature than the rest of the floor. Calming images of bamboo and still water, a small rock garden, and two Himalayan salt lamps set the mood in the space. Colorful, laminated sheets of paper are displayed on the room’s cabinets, explaining what and how to use the different essential oils stored within them.

“We have been really stressed in the ICU so I decided to create this space for us to recharge and find solace while we are here at work. Thus far, staff on both day and night shifts have used the space and they are grateful to have it,” Jumna said.

In addition to her nursing qualifications, Jumna has a Masters in Spiritual Guidance and Holistic Care. She is a Reiki practitioner, skilled in the use of essential oils and restorative yoga. She posts a schedule of the days she is on-site at WLA and offers the five- to ten-minute-long Serenity Room sessions on her own time. The sessions with Jumna feature a massage and meditation, along with aromatherapy and relaxing music. When she is not on campus, staff can use the space on their own. Jumna also performs the same services at other institutions, as well as teaches a few programs in the field of mindfulness and staff wellness.

Her initiative at WLA is based on her master’s thesis, which looked at how the wellbeing of an ICU nurse is directly proportional to their ability to provide quality care. “I feel that nurturing a nurse is key to resilience and retention of staff,” Jumna said. This ‘labor of love’ is a gift from Jumna to her colleagues, whom she values.

“Especially in the present situation with COVID-19, these courageous men and women show up and provide excellent care to our patients. Each one of them are amazing caregivers and they deserve this,” Jumna emphatically said.  

While this space is currently just for the ICU staff, Jumna is open to creating a space like this for all employees depending on interest and availability. “Ideally, each unit should have such a space [in] their units so staff do not have to leave the unit to recharge,” said Jumna.

Jumna credits her manager, Tasha Zanders, Acting ICU Nurse Manager and Petya Papazova, RN, ICU, for their support in helping Jumna bring this project to life.

According to Zanders, the Serenity Room has been a necessary and important response to help nursing staff grapple with the stressors and fears that have accompanied the battle against COVID-19:

“Nurses have been overwhelmed with fear due to the unknown nature of COVID-19 and having thoughts of possibly having to separate from their families,” Zanders said. “Since the opening of the Serenity Room, the nurses have been very happy to have a place to go when they feel overwhelmed and stressed while providing quality care.”

Dr. Marcia Lysaght, Associate Director, Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive agreed, “During these extended periods of increased stressors in healthcare and in our nation, it is essential for healthcare workers to find healthy ways to effectively deal with stress. The ability to find a place of solace during a busy day, even if it’s for a few moments, is exactly what is needed to help build resilience.”

Jumna and Zanders both envision this initiative remaining a staple of their unit long after the COVID-19 season. “This initiative is here to stay. It brings value to our team and makes us feel better in challenging times,” Jumna emphasized. Zanders added that the program “is a small token given to [the nursing staff who] work so hard. This is our way to say to them that we honor, respect, and value them for being part of the WLA family.”

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