How a New Program is Reducing Stress for Healthcare Workers
Sep 27, 2022
Sutter Health
Nurse in uniform has acupuncture needles placed into her ear by a licensed professional

By Meg Walker and Ashley Boarman, Vitals contributors 

A certain amount of work stress is normal no matter what career you’re in. This was true before the pandemic but coping with the Covid virus may have increased work-related stress for some healthcare workers. Hospitals and health systems across the United States continue to support employees’ and physicians’ wellbeing through various avenues, including one Sutter hospital and medical foundation in the Bay Area offering ear acupuncture and chair massage to its employees, nurses and clinicians during their busy workdays.

A woman receives ear acupuncture.

During acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into the skin at various pressure points across the body. According to Chinese tradition, acupuncture helps balance the flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”), within one’s body.

Sutter’s Institute for Health & Healing recently designed a care program for employees at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center’s three campuses across the San Francisco, as well as employees and physicians at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation. The program is supported by CPMC and SPMF leadership and is made possible with funding from Sutter’s CPMC Foundation.

“We want to bring compassionate and healing touch to the caregivers who extend themselves every day to assist our patients and teams,” said Susie Laurenson, IHH Leadership Development Coach. “We hope this care reminds each person to relax, breathe and remember their unique healing gifts that they bring to the world. And, that it inspires them to care for themselves as they care every day for others.”

Both treatments – acupuncture and chair massage – are safe, have benefits associated with reducing anxiety and stress, and they don’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes to administer.

A white male masseuse gives a chair massage to a female healthcare worker.

A Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation (SPMF) employee receives a chair massage as part of a new employee care program.

Chris Goodman-Smith, a licensed acupuncturist at IHH, has been rotating through hospital departments offering ear acupuncture. Ear acupuncture is a treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine that uses either small needles placed on the surface of the ear or ear seeds, which don’t pierce the skin. It can treat a variety of issues including insomnia, pain, headaches, anxiety and stress.

Chair massage is a healing art and is done while the patient is seated on a special massage chair. Various massage techniques can be used to calm the mind and body, relax the muscles and improve flexibility and movement.

Recently, about 20 staff members at the cardiology department received chair massages.

“Everyone on my team truly appreciated the chair massages,” said Maria Reyna, care center manager. “The massages helped them to feel more relaxed, less stressed, and it made a difference in their workday to be pampered and receive 10 to 15 minutes of stress release.”

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