At Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH), amidst the hustle and bustle of hospital life, you can also find a spa-like environment — a room with soft lighting that makes the space look like a vacation spot with calm music and warm tea made to perfection as people talk, laugh and relax. This environment is made possible once or twice a month for employees as a part of a program called Tea for the Soul.
Chaplain Mario DeLise and volunteer Kimberly Davidson started Tea for the Soul as a way to show appreciation to employees. DeLise and Davidson set up the relaxing space throughout the hospital in different departments with holiday decorations, cookies and tea. They start each event by telling employees that they are appreciated and then employees are given free time to relax. Employees usually sit quietly and meditate or talk to each other and socialize.
“I love being able to care for our employees who spend their lives caring for others,” says DeLise. “One of my favorite moments at Tea for the Soul was when an employee walked in clearly stressed with her shoulders up and clipboard held stiff. Shortly after we handed her a specially made cup of tea, her attitude was completely different. By the end she looked calm, relaxed and had a smile on her face.”
This appreciation and relaxation is important for hospital employees, says Laurien Hamilton, patient financial services director. The high-stress hospital environment can make employees feel like taking a break is a waste of time, she explains. “We all are so busy, and sometimes we don’t even take an actual lunch break,” says Hamilton, “Some people were hesitant to attend Tea for the Soul, but when they come they relax, enjoy and stay for 20 minutes or so. They feel inspired seeing someone that they do not know well [the chaplain and his volunteer] care for them.”
Aside from the rest and relaxation that Tea for the Soul brings, it is also bringing the WWGH community together. “It builds community within the department. People will sit and chat together who otherwise may sit in cubicles and not interact as much,” said DeLise.
Leaders and directors of WWGH recognize the value of Tea for the Soul and are sometimes going out of their way to facilitate it. Beckie Versteeg, med/surg director, is one such leader who understands. The day that Tea for the Soul was hosted at her department was one of its busiest days. It seemed as though her nurses might not be able to attend. However, Versteeg covered for her nurses on her day off so that they could, two at a time, take some time to relax at the event. "I always make this program a priority even if I am busy," she says. "It sends a message to the staff that the mission is not just for the patients but for the staff as well."
Delise states that the program has helped bring healing to the souls of those who work every day to heal the bodies of others. “This allows us to show people that our real purpose is to care for them and to show them God’s love," she says. "It brings a sense of compassion and love in a cup.”