Mental health retreat for nurses sees encouraging results in managing workplace stress
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Mental health retreat for nurses sees encouraging results in managing workplace stress

Mental health retreat for nurses sees encouraging results in managing workplace stress

A monthly half-day retreat focusing on self-care, stress management and wellbeing for nurses in the US is starting to see encouraging results.  


The Caring for the Nurse Retreat in Arkansas in the US was launched in response to a survey a few years ago. Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) asked both physicians and nursing staff about wellness and mental health. They found that nurses were way ahead of residents, students and attending physicians when it came to burnout, and it was clear that something needed to be done.  


In response, the chief nursing officer (CNO) in Little Rock, Trenda Ray, launched the Caring for the Nurse Retreat. It’s a monthly half-day event held off-site at the Department for Arkansas Heritage, next to the Arkansas River. All frontline registered nurses, advanced practice nurses and licenced practical nurses are welcome to attend, but sessions are limited to just 12-14 participants a time.  


The sessions aim to give nursing professionals the tools they need to manage stress, and keep their mental health in balance. This includes a wide range of activities, from yoga and mindfulness to healthy cooking demonstrations so that nurses can learn how to prepare nutritious lunches. 


Explaining of how the retreat focuses on good mental health practices at home as well as in the workplace, founder Trenda Ray said:  


“Each session, I try to do the welcome. If I can’t do it in person, they play a video where I explain the premise behind the retreat and why it’s so important to us that we want healthy nurses not just at work, but we want our healthy nurses back at home with their families.


“Sceptical people go in saying, ‘I don’t know about this,’ and they come out thanking us.” 


Nurses report “significant improvements in self-care” 


After holding a total of 18 monthly retreats so far, the project has garnered lots of positive feedback from attendees. The average satisfaction score from participants is 4.89 out of 5, and nurses have reported improvements in everything from nutrition and physical activity to the management of stress.  


Feedback from nurses included this comment, explaining why schemes such as this are so important following the Covid-19 pandemic: 


“This was much needed, especially after the past year in the pandemic. I have become so focused on work and school that I’ve lost focus on what matters.” 


Of around 2,000 nurses who work in the region, nearly 200 have attended the retreat so far. It now plans to run twice a month, and what started out as a pilot scheme will now be rolled out for other staff members across the medical centre campus.  


The Caring for the Nurse Retreat has also received sponsorship from UAMS funding provider the Chanceller’s Circle, and has received over $10,000 in donations. 


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