Kerith Francis and Jenny Ricklefs

Jan. 20, 2022
Jenny Ricklefs, left, and Kerith Francis.

Creating an oasis for exhausted workers: the ‘Recharge Room’

When Emma Patrick, a trauma and acute care surgery social worker, emerged after having spent a few precious moments in the massage chair, she took a deep breath and smiled.

“It’s nice to get off my feet and step away from the unit,” said Patrick. “The physical distance helps with the mental distance.”

That’s exactly what a diverse team from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and UCHealth envisioned when, two years into the pandemic, they began researching how immersive environments could decrease anxiety and improve well-being.

Born from an overwhelming need to support staff and providers, the beloved “Recharge Room” at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital came to life thanks to the vision and dedication of Kerith Francis, project manager, and Jenny Ricklefs, volunteer services manager.

Since opening on Oct. 22, 2021, the Recharge Room has become an invigorating oasis for health care workers, exhausted from heroic work throughout the pandemic.

“We knew we didn’t want a glorified break room,” Francis said.

Francis and Ricklefs looked at similar wellness areas at other hospitals along with spas that boasted Zen atmospheres. Set with their vision, they then scoured the hospital for a possible space to build out the room, discovered an old closet alcove and got to work.

Francis and Ricklefs incorporated calming paint colors, fans, electric candles, aromatherapy and gentle lights and nature sounds in a welcoming area with comfy chairs and serene scenes projected on the walls. The cherry on top? Four luxurious massage chairs available for 30-minute sessions.

Evan Zehr, an internal medicine resident, recently spent a few minutes in one of the chairs.

“That was amazing,” said Zehr, a grin on his face.

He’s not alone in his reaction. The response from medical providers and staff members who have used the Recharge Room has been overwhelmingly positive according to a short outtake survey visitors fill out. Data show that 86 percent of those who came in said they were feeling dispirited or were experienced diminished energy. Of those, 95 percent left feeling much better.

“Since opening, we have had more than 1,000 visits from our colleagues and the statistics show the concept is working,” said Ricklefs.

Nurse manager Mark Yoder relaxes in the Recharge Room at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. Photo by Jenny Ricklefs for UCHealth.
Nurse manager Mark Yoder takes time to relax in the Recharge Room at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. Photo by Jenny Ricklefs for UCHealth.

“The Recharge Room is really an environment that supports well-being and positivity.”

On the outtake form, comments have included, “This is wonderful,” “Love this” and “Arrived feeling unfocused but left feeling grateful.”

And because the room is staffed entirely by volunteers, the recharge room also provides an opportunity for staff to give a little back to colleagues.

“Anyone can volunteer to take a shift working in the room,” said Francis. “I think it helps remind us of our ‘why’ and provides a chance to focus on all that’s good right now.”

The schedule is updated weekly and fluctuates depending on available staff. Recently, a therapy dog named Mojo has been making an appearance and Dan Curran, a volunteer, is sharing his Reiki practice one morning a week.

Julie Wright, pharmacy technician, grabs some time with Mojo, a therapy dog, before heading into the Zen room. Photo by Molly Blake.

Francis said she’d love to expand and create a space for stretching or yoga. And Ricklefs is taking reservations for small team meetings. In the meantime, all are welcome to take a few minutes to hear the birds while relaxing on the beach. The best part? No sand in your suit.

If you are interested in volunteering in the Recharge Room, please email Jenny Ricklefs.

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About the author

Molly Blake is a communications specialist for UCHealth. She joined the team in 2019. Molly spent much of her journalism career freelance writing for various publications including The New York Times, NBC news, alumni magazines and more. She is the proud spouse of a United States Marine Corps veteran, and wrote extensively about their life in the military.