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Hospital chaplain finds unique strategy to combat COVID fatigue

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(LOS ANGELES) — As the United States marks one million COVID deaths, comfort is something neither families of the dead nor front-line health care workers have known during the past two years.

The stress has been enormous for health care workers. The Rev. Hannah Rhiza at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Ray Hospital, south of Los Angeles, is trying to bring some comfort to an exhausted staff. Rhiza is the chaplain at Cedars-Sinai.

With the sound of wheels spinning, she moves her spiritual care cart down the hallways of the hospital to help staff take a moment to de-stress.

“These two years have been incredibly hard,” Rhiza said recently, while sitting outside the hospital.

The reverend and her team came up with the idea of the spiritual care cart. It is a rolling cart full of items to help staff relax. She wheels relaxation to them wherever they are in the hospital.

“I kind of go by what season it is,” she said as she showed her cart to ABC News. “This is the spring cart right now.”

The three-tiered cart is meant to promote self-care and prevent worker burnout.

“So the top tier is interactive. By interactive it invites the staff to come into that space to be expressive,” she said.

On the top of the cart there is an LED prayer and hope tree. Staff are invited to write anything on a small piece of paper and to hang it from the tree. It can be a prayer, a worry, a wish, or anything else.

She also has a vase of water on the cart. Staff can write something that is a burden on their life or pressing on their heart onto paper that dissolves in the water.

“Don’t we all have stuff that we don’t want to put out there on the tree?” she said. “I encourage the staff to write on here, fold it so nobody sees it, and dissolve it. And it dissolves into the water. It’s symbolic. And it’s a practice of letting go.”

Her cart is also full of candles, snacks and teas that staff can take to help relax while on the job. It’s about healing the healers.

“In the height of COVID, with so many things going on, just depleted. There was a lot of work to be done in the unit,” she explained. “Rather than inviting the staff to come to us, we ended up going to them and there’s just a significance of meeting them where they are. And bringing spiritual care support where they are. And it had allowed the staff to feel seen and feel recognized.”

Rhiza and her cart are now a beacon of hope and calm in the hallways of Cedars-Sinai.

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