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Serenity Reigns

You can bet some people scoffed when they saw nurses on Hopkins Hospital's Cardiology Care Unit furnishing an empty patient room with lava lamps, feng shui stones and a Zen garden. But the CCU nurses saw opportunity in an otherwise negative situation. The nursing shortage had forced them to close beds. And they needed a space where they could decompress. Their oasis was a "budget neutral" project easily approved last autumn because they transformed the room themselves. They brought in colorful fabrics, a carpet, books, and even began sharing poetry. They set up rules-no eating, no sleeping, no shop talk-and stuck to them.

"People see it as a sacred space because they built it themselves," says Karen Davis (pictured right), the unit's nurse manager, who points out that normally people must retreat to the bathroom or locker room if they want to take a break. "They turned this room into something to help us cope. It's smart."

But by the beginning of the year, the CCU was, at last, fully staffed. The serenity room was dismantled and a patient moved in. "We always knew we were gonna have to give it back," says Davis, "so it's bittersweet. It means that we're whole again."



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