ICU staff, patients get to unwind

Story and photo by Michelle Barrera
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs

***image1***Have you ever wanted to just take a little break from the stress of your day-to-day duties, but weren’t sure of the best way to unwind?

Thanks to the American Legion, that is no longer a problem for the Intensive Care Unit staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The American Legion donated a state-of-the-art massage chair to help alleviate the stress that comes with working in a critical care setting.

“It feels so good, I will definitely be coming here,” said Hospitalman 3rd Class Darlene Heintz, who was first to use the massage chair after an Aug. 26 ribbon
cutting ceremony.

Looking on with approval was Lt. Col. Dawn Garcia, the ICU chief nurse who declined the honor of being in the chair.

“I wanted one of my staff to be the first. They deserve it. They work hard,” she said.

Increased stress can lead to job dissatisfaction and burnout, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This is especially true for a high-tech, fast-paced, emotionally-charged atmosphere, such as ICU.

Intensive care nurses confront death and dying, end-of-life decisions and ethical dilemmas regularly. In addition to providing around-the-clock care to their patients, ICU nurses interact frequently with distraught families, many of which are thousands of miles away from their loved ones. Such responsibilities can take an emotional toll on our bodies and lead to physical problems caused by stress.

The massage chair is a welcomed addition to help furnish a few moments of relief from such stressors, said Dr. Anita Brown, director of the LRMC Combat and Operational Stress Reaction/Staff Resiliency program. COSR/SR is a hospital committee composed of behavioral health professionals, chaplains, nurses and administrative representatives spread throughout the hospital to address signs of operational stress and compassion fatigue. In addition to the ICU staff, the
massage chair is also available to ICU patients and their family members.

Some common effects stress has on our bodies include neck and back pain, muscle aches and spasms. For the past several years, research shows the extraordinary results that massage can have on the body and its ability to help improve your health and wellness. For example, research indicates that regular massage chair therapy helps relaxation, improves circulation and strengthens the immune system. Massage therapy has been recognized by many as a simple way to maintain good health and mental happiness.

A study conducted by the University of Miami School of Medicine examined the effectiveness of a 15-minute on-site massage while employees were seated in a chair; they were evaluated for reducing stress as indicated by blood pressure.

Fifty-two employed participants’ blood pressures were measured before and after a 15-minute massage at work. The results showed a significant reduction in participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure after receiving the massage.