Learn how a physician lounge with a chef and other amenities promotes community.
Pre-2018, the basement-level physician lounge at Enloe Medical Center was a distinctly unwelcoming room. With no access to natural light, the pale walls reflected the color scheme of the early 2000s when it was last refreshed. Despite the small size of the space (565 sq ft), it was rarely fully occupied. The free hospital food was adequate but not an enticement.
Developing the Intervention
Due to complaints about the food quality, the Patient-Family Advisory Council at Enloe was asked to make recommendations for improving food services at the hospital. Based in part on that recommendation, the food service contract was given to a new company that focused on fresh and local food prepared on site. Part of their model is also to place a chef in the physician lounge. The chef prepares made-to-order omelets for physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs) in the morning and delivers them to the tables. For lunch, he prepares 3 to 4 salads, one of which is fresh fruit, and on some days makes fish tacos or other special entrées. Attentive to details, he ensures the coffee/espresso machine has fresh coffee beans, the beverages are stocked, and fresh croissants from a local bakery are available.
In mid-2018, the new physician lounge suite opened down the hall from the smaller lounge. The new space has a larger dining area (974 sq ft) and an adjacent library (465 sq ft). The new library has sofas, recliners, and computer stations. TVs (usually on mute) are available in the dining area, where operating room (OR) schedules are also posted. To promote a more relaxed atmosphere, there are no TVs in the library. Cell phone use is not restricted, but the library, with its few distractions, is naturally a quiet space.
Still located in the basement without natural light, the lounge features sky panels over some of the lights to bring a more natural look to the space. A rotating exhibit of physicians' art decorates the walls. A large conference room will be built next to the dining room, allowing physicians to conduct business close to the lounge amenities.
The new lounge is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to physicians and APPs via badged access. The lounge is used primarily by the physicians who work at the acute care hospital, although some who work at the other campuses come by to eat. It is filled almost to capacity during breakfast and lunch. The conversation is more animated as physicians connect over professional and social topics. The morning sees physicians and APPs gather over breakfast to prepare for the day's clinical duties. Outside of mealtimes, the space is used to do charting, complete medical team business like peer review, relax, or read a journal in one of the recliners. The computers and TV screens are periodically used to display radiology images or slides during continuing education presentations. For a month each fall, nurses hold flu shot and tuberculosis purified protein derivative (PPF) skin testing clinics Monday through Friday over the lunch period, which has improved compliance with these measures.
In February 2020, after 3 years in which the area suffered the near-breach of the country's tallest dam, California's worst fire, a measles outbreak, a flood, and a cyber-attack, physician engagement at Enloe was measured by Gallup at the 82nd percentile. The physician lounge is cited by many physician leaders as a positive contributor to physician communication and collegiality.
At a time when non-revenue generating space is difficult to justify, the new lounge is a credit to the CEO who prioritized building the physician lounge suite over refurbishing the administration offices, which were updated last in 1990. This sent a strong message that physicians are appreciated and valued at Enloe.
The physician lounge during COVID-19
One of the earliest decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic was to keep the physician lounge open. Recognizing its positive contribution to physician wellness, but needing to follow recommended health practices, about half the chairs were removed and additional hand sanitizers were installed.
On March 16, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) began 7-day-a-week in-person and email “COVID Updates” in the lounge. Always at noon on the dot, physicians and APPs gathered to hear about the hospital's COVID response, how many patients were hospitalized, how the field medical site would function, how to get tested for COVID, or what personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies looked like. The CMO also answered any questions in response to the emailed update.
Others added to the discussions about the COVID response. The Medical Directors for Infectious Disease and Pathology often presented on the state of treatments and testing. The CEO, COO, and CNO often participated.
The daily updates continued for 6 weeks then transitioned to 3 times a week. Fourteen months after the first COVID Update presentation, they dropped down to twice weekly. The updates that take place on Friday have a distinct focus on wellness. In “Three Things”, the CMO shares 3 things she is grateful for, 2 of which are work related and 1 which is more personal, and asks “What are you grateful for?” Physicians reaching milestones such as becoming double-boarded, retiring, or getting a new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy are celebrated.