STOP Revive Survive. This slogan is as relevant to those practicing medicine as it is to the motorists. But do you even have an effective “break room” in which to read this article in peace? Probably not. You are not alone.
A doctor-in-training commits to spending a significant number of their productive years to gruelling training, countless sleepless nights and scores of examinations. Specialisation is yet another voyage in itself. I am unaware of any other domain of human endeavour that even comes close to such demands.
It doesn’t stop with training. Increasing societal expectations, the ever-increasing medico-legal and regulatory stressors compound what is already a highly demanding profession.
But there is no point in stating the obvious – we cannot change the world in toto. Only à la carte.
A refreshing little change could be designing effective break rooms – whether it be inside hospitals or within GP practices. Please note the word “effective”.
It is a pity that break rooms are considered a perfunctory mundanity. Doctors may come and doctors may go, but the break room rarely changes its composition – a clinic-like white-washed nondescript space with a fridge, sugar, coffee powder, milk cans and the sink, which sometimes serves as the proverbial “Broad Street pump handle”.
Break rooms remain a missed opportunity.
They could be perceived as dead expenditure. But the truth is, for every dollar an organisation spends on the mental wellbeing of its employees, it could receive on average $2.30 back in increased profits, according to an Australian Government Study. This return for investment could be the result of improved performance and reduced absenteeism.
Break rooms, if designed properly, have a great potential to improve mental wellbeing.
The business world is quick to recognise the potential of “effective” breaks and innovative break rooms. Corporate meditation is a buzzword nowadays. Technology companies like Apple and Google supposedly provide a 30-minute guided meditation to their employees. Some companies like Nike have developed nap rooms where employees can take a power nap and refresh themselves. There are even “snooze-friendly policies” for sleeping at work.
A gargantuan multilevel space filled with techno-wizardry is not always required for a peaceful respite that reinvigorates the self. A simple meeting place with comfortable chairs and pleasantly coloured walls for “rostered-off” quietness is all that may be required. This could serve as a place to reset the tympanic membranes from the incessant beeps and dings, for example. Some break rooms include a treadmill, an aromatherapy diffuser, yoga mats, a few massaging chairs, noise-cancelling headphones and even video games.
One size does not fit all. It is important to ask everyone who could potentially use a break room of their opinion before designing one. Interesting quirks could be added, such as a smartwatch-controlled coffee maker, among other cool devices. You will be surprised by the imaginative ideas that you and your colleagues could come up with.
The more we get together in such interesting projects as designing a break room, the more cohesive we could become to our colleagues in practice. As a bonus, we could be providing a better service to our patients, our families and ourselves if we take our mind off the daily stressors, just for a few minutes a day, inside an “effective” break room.
Dr Balaji Bikshandi is a specialist intensive care physician and the clinical lead of the Intensive Care Unit of the North West Regional Hospital, Burnie, Tasmania.
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