Code Lavender: A Holistic Wellness Rapid Response Program

It was my first week of being on my own as a brand-new nurse after being acclimated to my med-surge unit and I was tasked with four patients on the Cardiac Step-down unit. Earl, who I will never forget, was stating he was not feeling well and complaining of nausea, shortness of breath, and having a “weird” feeling about dying. He suddenly became pale, unresponsive, and pulseless when I called a code and began compressions.

Later, I found myself scrunched down outside of Earl’s door crying, wondering what I could have done to prevent his death. I felt responsible and questioned my calling. No one on that unit offered support in this event and acted like it was business as usual.

As nurses, we often experience emotional stressors. These stressors can be in the form of traumatic events, work overload, compassion fatigue, burnout, poor work-life balance, or other circumstances. Every patient-centered nurse out there has experienced a situation that has either made them cry, want to quit, or caused them to lose sleep.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a system in your facility that can meet you where you are and provide the emotional support you need?

So, what exactly is Code Lavender?

In 2008, Dr. Earl Bakken of the North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea, developed a program called Code Lavender. The color Lavender was chosen to represent holistic wellness as it is known for its tranquility and calming effects.

The Code Lavender program was originally started as a holistic rapid response team to help patients and family members in need of emotional support. It later incorporated the healthcare team members who are exposed to a high level of varying stressors like burnout, trauma, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. This code was designed to bring intentional acts of kindness after a stressful event and gives those experiencing the event a sense of being cared for and heard.

According to Cleveland Clinic who pioneered Code Lavender, the team consists of  Chaplains, case managers, and  holistic nurse coaches as part of the Spiritual Care Department. They provide various modalities like reiki, guided movement (i.e., Tai Chi), journaling, music, breath work, meditation, and guided imagery to help with the healing process.  The team is available to be present for all patients, family members, and healthcare providers.

This is especially important in today’s nursing because burnout is on the rise. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are recognizing the need for programs like this to maintain staff retention. After all, 40 % of all Code Lavender alerts called were for nurses.

Organizations who are utilizing this program

Unfortunately, a very small percentage of healthcare facilities have implanted this program. Many have implemented some form of program to help in a crisis and others are looking to implement Code Lavender, but not soon enough. That’s why holistic nurse advocators who have an innate calling to support and help alleviate suffering in others are so important in the growth of this program.

Advocate to implement Code Lavender in your organization

This is a great opportunity for Nurse Coaches to take the lead on implementing a program of this caliber…. but how? There are many things to take into consideration.  

  • Do your research. Understand Code Lavender and how it could fit in your facility. You might even go as far as contacting a hospital administrator of a facility that has implemented this and get tips on building the team and code process.
  • Once you have their interest then collaborate with other health team members who see the value in the program.
  • Gather data. Enlisting the help of nurse managers or unit managers to gather information can make this much easier. Providing surveys or questionnaires is an option to obtain a large amount of data in a short amount of time.
  • Present your findings and recommendations for implementing Code Lavender in your facility. Be sure to include number of team members needed, who the team members are based off their specialty, code process, supporting data for implementing Code Lavender.

Code Lavender humanizes hospitals and excels the healing environment for patients and caregivers alike. The leadership of a Nurse Coach makes the perfect fit for a program like this.

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Lisa is an adult wellness nurse in a family practice by day and a freelance health content writer by night….and Saturday morning. She is passionate about her career because she gets to do what makes her happy, help others and write.
Lisa is still actively involved with her INCA alumni and meets monthly with her cohorts and pursuing her board certification in Nurse Coaching.

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