On an ordinary summer morning at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Hospital in Valley Stream, nurses and visitors can be seen wheeling their patients onto its open-air grounds, a spacious courtyard tucked away behind the Orzac Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation. Hospital personnel regularly slip in and out of the spot for a few minutes to take in the fresh air. Some can be seen in between shifts sitting on island tables to eat their lunches, while others steal a moment to talk on the phone before they return to the routine bustle on the hospital floor.
Within the already demanding nature of medical professionals, the pandemic brought a stress-inducing ordeal unlike any other for all medical personnel at LIJ. No one was spared from the pandemic’s toll on the emotional, mental and physical health of hospital workers. “We gave so much during Covid,” said Lissa Nelson, employee health manager at LIJ. Guided by the simple principle that you cannot take care of others unless you take care of yourself first, Nelson sought to better engage the health and wellness of all the employees in the building.
That’s when Nelson proposed to the board of directors earlier this year that the hospital host vendors from the Laurelton Farmer’s Market and group fitness exercise specialists. Now, every other Friday, the hospital’s outdoor grounds have become a staging arena to promote a culture of health and wellness among hospital staff.
“It’s hard to take care of yourself when you’re taking care of other people,” said Jessica Corrado, a nurse in the emergency department, who stopped by with her fellow nurses to browse the wholesome and tasty artisanal goods on display. “You put that in the back of your mind.”
“Food is medicine,” said Hajara Musa, one of the two founders of the Elderberry Sistas team. “And we’re here to heal our community.” Musa’s sweet and pungent organic syrup has alkaline herbs to boost the respiratory and immune systems and combat mucus and flu-like symptoms