Wellbeing office and their staff
By Makenzie McNeill

Caring for the Caregivers

Employee Well-Being to be a Major Focus in New UNM Hospital Tower

An array of traumatic sights, sounds and smells bombards health care workers every day. Their shifts may end, but staff carry these distressing experiences with them to their homes and everywhere they go.

That’s why The University of New Mexico Hospital created the Employee Well-Being Department in 2017. Director Steven Nuanez and his three-member team work diligently to provide the resources and support to care for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of staff.

We have to take care of the well-being of staff to take care of the well-being of the community
Steve Nuanez, Director of Employee Well-Being

“We have to take care of the well-being of staff to take care of the well-being of the community,” Nuanez says. “Sometimes I don't know if people recognize how challenging this work is, so supporting our staff is a worthwhile thing to do.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic not only put a spotlight on the lack of inpatient capacity in New Mexico, but also on the immense stress that all medical staff endure.

“We’ve really felt the effects of what health care workers have gone through the last two years,” says Susan McCamey, a well-being development specialist on the team. “Staff need to go someplace to experience something other than suffering all day long.”  

Fortunately, years before the pandemic, UNMH was already planning for its new hospital tower to include more spaces and opportunities for staff to engage in self-care.

And the Employee Well-Being Team cannot wait to unleash its potential when the tower debuts in late 2024.

The essence of well-being was incorporated into the very design of the tower.

Soothing colors and textures meant to evoke New Mexico’s natural beauty will foster a calming environment. Staff will be able to easily access an outdoor healing garden, walking and bike paths and views of nature.

Improved acoustical systems will ensure that staff can escape the noise of the hospital when needed. Building measures to enhance air quality will reduce indoor pollutants.

One of the most obvious features will be the abundance of natural light, thanks to the large windows throughout the tower. This will be a welcome addition, because many places in the current hospital do not have access to windows.

“Natural light plays such a critical role on our sleep, even on our immune system,” explains Melissa McConnell-Hand, another well-being development specialist. “The extra natural light in the tower will allow our health care workers to get that stimulation and feel restored.”

The tower will also have spaces on various levels – like lactation rooms, gender-neutral bathrooms and respite rooms – that staff can use for privacy and self-reflection.

But the most unique space dedicated to employee well-being is the Sky Campus on Level 4.

Concept art of Sky Campus room
Level 04 - Sky Campus


Here, UNMH staff, Health Sciences Center faculty and students will enjoy views of the Sandia Mountains and have access to conference rooms and break areas. Nuanez and his team already see the exciting opportunities that the Sky Campus will offer.   

“So important to well-being is having space to do activities – space to decompress and confidential space where you can see people one-to-one and be able to support them,” Nuanez says. “The Sky Campus will help provide that.”

Some of those activities could include meditation courses, yoga and dance classes and painting sessions.

Concept art of meditation room
Level 02 - Meditation Room


Many exciting amenities await New Mexicans when the tower opens in late 2024. But one of the tower’s finest achievements is that it will cultivate an atmosphere where caregivers – all the staff who selflessly serve our community – can be cared for.

Greater staff well-being inevitably leads to better care for patients.

“We are so excited about all of this,” says program coordinator Eddie Rojas-Alvarado. “We are ready to see how the tower will boost morale and help the overall well-being of our staff.”

 To learn more, visit https://unmhealth.org/locations/tower.html.

Categories: Health, News You Can Use, Top Stories, UNM Hospital