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Coronavirus stress among hospital workers leads to creation of 'recharge rooms'

"It has settled me in the middle of a busy day," one nurse said of the new rooms at Mount Sinai Health System hospitals in New York City.

A New York City hospital created "recharge rooms" to give doctors, nurses and other staff a place to recover from the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

When staff in Mount Sinai Health System hospitals walk into the rooms, they are transported into what feels and looks like a different environment, Dr. David Putrino told TODAY.

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"As soon as you step in, first of all, the lighting changes so that you have this experience of being in sort of a forest or an ocean environment around dusk," he said.

The interior of one of the "recharge rooms" at Mount Sinai in New York.Studio Elsewhere / Mount Sinai

The hospital system, which partnered with design company Studio Elsewhere for the project, uses soft lights and diffusers with essential oils in the rooms. One was decorated with lanterns and plants and has a giant screen displaying a forest.

"The first thing I did was I sat down in the chair, and I looked up at the tree, it was swaying," a registered nurse with Mount Sinai told TODAY. "And I could feel the breeze on my arm and the crackling of the fire. It was very realistic."

"It has settled me in the middle of a busy day," the nurse added.

The exterior of one of the "recharge rooms" tents at Mount Sinai in New York.Studio Elsewhere / Mount Sinai

Putrino said in the hospital's podcast, "Road to Resilience," that the rooms were created in his lab and are based on scientific research.

"So the first thing that we did was we brought in these artificial plants that sort of cocoon the person," he said in a May podcast. "So you will sit in an experience, and you're surrounded by these plants that make you feel like you're in a forest. We then project beautiful HD images of different natural scenes. We bring in all sorts of experiences that have been shown over years of research to reduce blood pressure, decrease heart rate, reduce stress hormones in the observer."

Matthias Linke, DO, Fellow, Rehabilitation and Human Performance in one of the recharge rooms.Mount Sinai

He said the response to the rooms has been positive. Dahlia Rizk, chief of hospital medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, told TODAY that for many health care workers, the stress of the pandemic is just now hitting them.

"We really didn't have time to think during that time" when the pandemic was at its height in New York, she said.

Rizk said the recharge rooms are a great way to "really start focusing on the mental health and well-being of all kinds of front-line providers."

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