(From L-R) Miriam Amador, Juan Lorenzo, Dr. Linda Gable-Adams and Renee Shaw.
At the end of a long hallway in the Peter Ho Memorial Clinic located in Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark is a room that has been transformed into a zen retreat for both patients and employees.
The ZenAS room contains two comfortable reclining chairs and several fountains. Its walls are painted in muted, earth-tone colors. A painting by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera hangs on the wall.
Most importantly, the room is about as quiet as you can get in a busy urban hospital smack dab in the heart of New Jersey’s largest city.
“There are so many benefits to using the Zen room,” said Dr. Linda Gable-Adams, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner who sees patients at Saint Michaels. “It promotes kindness. It promotes a calming spirit you’re able to focus and get done what you need to get done.”
The project was initiated based on a recommendation from the state Department of Health, said Miriam Amador, the manager of the Peter Ho Memorial Clinic.
“The state recommended we create a therapeutic and private setting for patients where they could come and alleviate stress, a place where they could come and meditate,” Amador said. “By providing patients with a safe and comfortable environment, eventually they will open up and talk to us about their emotional and mental stresses.”
Amador said patients who are stable emotionally and mentally are better able to adhere to their treatments.
“It was just a matter of addressing their barriers and helping them be more compliant with their treatment,” Amador said.
Two employees who work closely with HIV patients, Renee Shaw and Juan Lorenzo, volunteered to help set up the ZenAS room.
“We did some research about what it means to be zen…the colors and smells and all those kinds of things,” Shaw said. “We took everything clinical out of the room and we started making it relaxing.”
Shaw said she and Lorenzo each brought their own sensibilities and diversity of tastes to the project.
“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t too masculine and it wasn’t too feminine,” Shaw said.
The ZenAS room is opening from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Though employees are allowed to use it, patients have first priority. No loud music, loud talking, cursing or eating are allowed.