Chi Time: Balancing Energy With Stress-Free Breaks

By Maggie Keogh, MEd

As the interdisciplinary Staff Support Team at The Mount Sinai Hospital continues to grow and develop with huge efforts from Sonia Nelson MS, RN, Clinical Nurse Manager of Guggenheim Pavilion 8 West (GP 8 West)on the Nursing front, my supervisor Rabbi H. Rafael Goldstein, BCC, the Director of the Department of Spiritual Care and Education, continually told me that the best thing I could do was get a cart and wheel it around from unit to unit serving tea and a snack to the staff!  Even though Rabbi Goldstein has had decades of experience with being a chaplain in various hospitals and working with staff, I was a non-believer and suspicious that he may be having a little fun with me as he is wont to do. I was a professional woman with years of experience under my belt, sometimes as the director of departments – and was this really how he wanted me to utilize my time, wheeling a cart around? 

Our Department had gotten a small but generous private grant for the Staff Support Team, and I ordered the cart, the water containers, the tea, and Kind bars. Everything arrived, and there they sat in their boxes for a month or so until one day I walked in and Rabbi had put my cart together. I rolled my eyes and knew the time was coming for the Chi Cart inauguration. I made a “Chi Time” sign, created a “play list” on my iPod of my favorite yoga/relaxation music and … procrastinated no further.

GP 8 West was the inaugural unit, and they loved Chi Time. With a range of herbal teas, an assortment of aromatic oil essences (lavender and eucalyptus being the favorites), relaxed music, “candle light,” and Kind bars, the goal of helping staff re-balance vital energy with stress-free breaks was born.

Not only has Chi Time become a favorite event on many units, it has become one of the most valued aspects of my job! The ministry of tea is the ministry of allowing a sacred space for staff to breathe in and breathe out and make a real connection with themselves and with others if they want. Or, I urge nurses, PCAs, doctors, residents, etc. to just sit for a few minutes.

Chi Time is becoming an important component of the Department of Spiritual Care and Education. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and connect with staff I usually wouldn’t – and sometimes it’s been in a significant way where I could offer counseling and support. Much of the feedback I have gotten has been that the staff feel supported hence they feel they can do a better job with their patients.

“Someone is taking care of us so we can take care of our patients!”

“This is the best thing that has happened to me since I started working here!”

“Can you come back tomorrow, and the next day and the next?”

“You mean this is for us (tears in eyes)? Thank you.”

Maggie Keogh, MEd, is a Staff Chaplain at The Mount Sinai Hospital, Department of Spiritual Care and Education and is helping to create the interdisciplinary Staff Support Team.


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