A Healing Space

Photo: Stephen Travarca

“The care we provide touches many lives, yet we’re not always that great at taking care of ourselves,” says Stephanie Smith, RN, CCRN, who created the Lavender Lounge with a Caregiver Catalyst Grant to provide a private space for grieving a patient’s death.

The Need

One day last year in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus, Stephanie Smith, RN, CCRN, watched as teams of nurses and other caregivers provided intense, compassionate care simultaneously for six patients at the end of their lives. This emotionally demanding experience fueled a concern for her colleagues’ mental well-being. “We have days of celebration and joy, and we have days of grief, guilt and fear,” Smith says. “Some of these emotions are controllable tide pools. Others are tidal waves.”

The Facts

In any intensive care unit, traumatic events can occur multiple times in one shift. Physicians, nurses and other caregiversworking directly with MICU patients experience intense stress. Left unresolved, such chronic stress can lead to burnout.

The Idea

On the same day that Smith watched teams provide end-of-life care for the six patients, the Caregiver Catalyst Grants program opened a new funding cycle. She wrote a proposal for her Lavender Lounge idea that night. Smith envisioned a room that would give MICU caregivers a dedicated and private space to cope with and grieve a patient’s death. The name alludes to the Code Lavender service that provides trained counselors to caregivers who need emotional support.

The Impact

The Lavender Lounge is now a reality, thanks to a Caregiver Catalyst Grant of $11,000 pooled from contributions from hundreds of donors. Lavender accents adorn the space. Images of nature decorate the walls. Journals, calming music, warm beverages and a massage chair complete the scene and promote renewal. A few months after the room opened, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the burden on healthcare workers and their need for relief. “The room provides a respite for everyone, every single day,” says Smith, who hopes the Lavender Lounge can serve as a model for similar spaces in intensive care units across Cleveland Clinic.


Cleveland Clinic’s CAREGIVER CATALYST GRANTS pool donations to fund the brightest ideas from our caregivers to improve patient outcomes and experiences. To date, more than 80 grants have been awarded, representing a total of $3 million in support.