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Maine Behavioral Healthcare
  Spring Harbor Hospital News

New "Peaceful Room" has roots in patient-centered care approach

(June 20, 2008)- When Hilary Hayes of Yarmouth was admitted to Spring Harbor Hospital, her experience was positive, with one exception: She was not able to express her spirituality in a way she found helpful to her recovery.

That's why June 17 was a special day for Hayes, as she joined Spring Harbor staff and trustees to unveil the hospital's new "Peaceful Room," which she helped develop for use by patients, families, and staff.

A specialty hospital treating individuals in psychiatric and emotional crisis, Spring Harbor offers patients non-denominational services as well as visits from pastors, rabbis, priests, and other spiritual leaders.

But none of these offerings fit comfortably into Hayes's definition of spirituality. A trained unity prayer chaplain and a self-described spiritual guide and shamanic practitioner of her own White Light Ministry, Hayes says she needs "to commune with nature," or else have a peaceful space indoors where she can get in touch with her spiritual center.  

That's why Hayes returned to Spring Harbor following her recovery to explain to its Consumer Advisory Committee precisely what would have helped her heal more quickly during her hospitalization. Staff, board members, and former hospital patients all took notice of her thoughtful-- and powerful--presentation.

"I remember being so impressed with Hilary," says Adult Services Program Director Karole Johnson, RN, MSN. "She could have simply closed that chapter in her life and never looked back, but she decided she wanted us to know how we could make the environment more healing for people with different spiritual needs."

The involvement of patients in the improvement of healthcare is part of a nationwide quality movement commonly known as "patient-centered care." Spring Harbor is increasingly involved in efforts like this that enable individuals and families to share their perceptions about treatment and how their healthcare experiences could be improved.

In mental healthcare, where confidentiality is a high priority due to a lingering shroud of stigma, it is often difficult to engage patients in this process after their discharge from the hospital. But that was not an issue for Hayes. "I believe there is never any shame in healing," she says. "It is important for all of us to give ourselves permission to know that sometimes things have to come undone before they get better."

Spring Harbor Trustee and Consumer Advisory Committee Chair Anne Pringle says, "This project represents how Spring Harbor truly wants to hear and respond to patients' suggestions for what helps enhance their recovery.  But it takes a commitment by patients to come forward with their feedback and suggestions. Hilary is a great model for that commitment, which will benefit so many others."

Together with staff from the hospital, Hayes worked for several months to develop a vision and plan for bringing the Peaceful Room to fruition. Awash in ample natural light, the chosen hospital space features soothing music, spiritual books and magazines, flameless candles, meditation mats, a comfortable chair, and an altar. Non-denominational prayers, positive affirmations, and poems are also available for meditation and private reflection.

"The space represents an offering of grounding and connection for an individual," explains Hayes. "It is an outward manifestation of the 'peaceful room' inside each one of us. My hope is that patients, staff, and families will use the space to find the truth within themselves and honor the sacred."

For Spring Harbor, this experience was one of growth and enlightenment. "Hilary helped us look more closely-and through the patient's eyes-at the manner in which we support a person's spirituality and healing," says Spring Harbor Chief Nursing & Clinical Officer Mary Jane Krebs, APRN-BC.  "Spring Harbor is the better for having been a part of this process."

"The spirit of Spring Harbor is opening like a flower," Hayes concludes. "This work represented a way for me to unlock doors for others, and I am happy that Spring Harbor has chosen to go through that door with me."

Through locations across Greater Portland and agreements with providers statewide, Spring Harbor Hospital offers the region's most complete nonprofit mental health treatment, training, and research programs. To learn more, call 207-761-2200 or visit

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123 Andover Road, Westbrook, Maine 04092 | 1-866-857-6644, 207-761-2200