Zen rooms open at League City, Galveston campuses to help alleviate staff stress


Boram Kim


Two new Zen Rooms, which are quiet spaces that promote mindfulness and invite health care workers to de-stress, were unveiled at UTMB’s League City and Galveston campuses this week.


“Clinical people hit the ground running and don’t stop for 12 hours,” said Christine Wade, administrator of the League City hospital. “It’s such stressful work they do.”


Nurses and clinical staff struggle with a heavy workload and emotional drain, but they struggled even more through three waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were seeing a lot of symptoms of burnout,” Wade said.


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Across the United States, 54 percent of clinical staff report feeling burnt out. That leads to a high risk of medical error or staff quitting their jobs.


“It also becomes an economic issue,” Wade said. “It costs $60,000 to replace a nurse.”


The Zen Room is a safe space for nurses to decompress and to gather themselves.

Wade found space for the League City Zen Room, which opened for staff tours and a ribbon cutting on Thursday, on the second floor in one of the hospital’s medical surgical units. The dedicated room is quiet with dim lights and soothing blue walls. Aromatherapy, a sound machine, yoga mats and a massage chair provide relaxation.

A massive, blank coloring book page offers another mindfulness option. The 6-foot-by-7-foot abstract image invites doodling, coloring and a few moments of focused calm.

For the first five weeks, the League City Zen Room will be open to 50 nurses who are participating in a burnout study. Researchers will use the Maslach Burnout Inventory Tool to measure burnout and resiliency, and also to measure the effectiveness of the Zen Room. After the five-week study, the room will open for all hospital staff.

During the COVID surges, Wade would talk to nurses during their daily huddle meetings. She made a point to ask them what the happiest moment of their day was and what the saddest moment of their day was. The answers often included small and painful details about divorce, hospitalized family members or unpaid mortgages.


“You forget, they have their personal life stressors in addition to dealing with death and suffering on the job,” Wade said. “We want to give them a respite and increase their resiliency so they can enjoy their life and their work.”


On the Galveston Campus, the new Zen Room was unveiled at Jennie Sealy Hospital on Monday. The calming room is a space for health care workers to decompress and re-center in a peaceful environment of natural colors, shapes and vibes that are in tune with the earth.

Funded by a grant from the UTMB President’s Cabinet, the Jennie Sealy Zen Room is open to staff who need time to stop and breathe, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It features a massage chair, small air plants, a rock garden and a rug made of rope emphasize natural elements.

The unveiling of the two Zen Rooms coincided with Health System & Nurses Week, an annual week of recognition of UTMB’s hospital and nursing staff.

This press release was provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch Health.