Clark State and Mercy Health provide self-care options for employees

Two major local employers have created ways to help support employees by providing self-care options.

Clark State College’s third class of SOAR – Serving Our Own through Leadership and Retention – participants identified the importance of self-care for faculty and staff. Soon after, plans for an employee self-care space began.

SOAR was developed to facilitate mentoring of faculty and staff on campus and assist them in identifying current and future leadership opportunities that result in personal and professional growth.

Selected SOAR participants – three faculty members and three staff members – attend meetings, events and complete all program requirements, including a unique project.

The 2019-20 SOAR mentees wanted to pursue the self-care space.

“After going through many options, we kept coming back to this project,” says Dr. Bridget Ingram, professor of Early Childhood Education at Clark State. “When we first started working on this, it was pre-COVID. Our work started with plans for a physical care space on campus and then making it virtual as well. We finished the initial plans right as we transitioned into a pandemic world.”

The pandemic caused the team to reverse the order of their plans, and Clark State’s Virtual Self-Care (VSC) realm officially launched on March 1.

"Creating a space for faculty to normalize the sharing of thoughts, feelings, and actions is a great start to reinforce positive help-seeking for themselves and others, and to strengthen staff connection and resiliency," says Dr. Greta Mayer, CEO of Mental Health Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties. "This resource is crucial for helpers like educators, who put themselves behind the needs of their students. MHRB also offers the Responder Resilience Program, which connects frontline helpers like educators to three free, trauma-informed sessions.”

Ingram says research shows that anyone who works in a service-focused profession is at risk of stress, secondary trauma, and things that can negatively impact their mental and physical health.

“We wanted to have a space where people could go to decompress, recharge and refocus,” she says. “When we formed the committee to discuss what space should entail … we brainstormed what it should include, especially when a person is tired, worn down, fatigued.”

The group decided on virtual “lounges” where people can connect and utilize a variety of resources.

“We wanted ‘lounges’ that would invigorate people,” says Ingram. “We hope people will use it in whatever way helps them to refocus, recharge and decompress.”

Faculty and staff can virtually enter a self-care site on Clark State’s Blackboard application. The “lounges” include activity, serenity, motivation, creativity, humor, music & movies, hobbies and even a children's lounge for parents to access activities for their young family members.

The next step is preparing the physical care-space on campus, which is slated to be available to faculty and staff beginning fall semester of this year.

The physical-care space will include massage chairs, monitors for access to virtual content, opportunities for music, puzzles for those who are hands-on, essential oils, conversation spaces, textures, and lighting, Ingram says.

A similar group at Mercy Health has created lavender rooms – three within Springfield Regional Medical Center and one at Urbana Hospital – to support caregivers’ emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.

Bobby Parrett, Mercy Health director of rehabilitation services, recalled personal experience in which a nurse treating his family became personally attached and experienced the same pain they were feeling.

“The connection the nurse had with my family in such a short period stuck with me. When I was part of the 2019 class of emerging leaders at Mercy Health, we wanted to find a way we could do something for our staff to ensure they have an outlet for emotional health,” he says.

The lavender rooms give employees a place they can go when they need time off the floor, for example, after a mass casualty event, a sudden death of a staff member or the death of an infant, Parrett says.

These rooms are dedicated spaces for destressing and resetting. They are painted in calming colors with comfortable recliners, dim lighting, aromatherapy, soft music, journals, and information about how to contact support resources.

“These lavender rooms send three signals to the entire staff, loud and clear: This work is stressful. You have needs that we recognize. We can provide resources to help,” Parrett says.

Read more articles by Darci Jordan.