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New MCE Lounge offers additional space for relaxation during work breaks

Aug. 24, 2020, 3:21 PM

is fully enclosed, climate controlled and offers small touches to create a pleasant and soothing environment.
The new MCE Lounge for VUMC employees is fully enclosed, climate controlled and offers small touches to create a pleasant and soothing environment. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Kelsey Herbers

To offer employees more room to spread out and relax during their work breaks, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has built a new space for employees to eat and rejuvenate in a safe, socially distanced environment.

The new space, dubbed the MCE Lounge, will open Aug. 26 at 8 a.m. and will be available 24/7 to all VUMC faculty and staff. The goal of the space is to redirect employees away from their unit break rooms, where keeping a safe distance from others is challenging and where risk of COVID-19 exposure is greatest due to an inability to wear a mask while eating.

The MCE Lounge is not a mask-free area. Unless eating or drinking, employees should continue to wear their masks while in the Lounge area.

To provide convenience and maximum comfort, the 20,000-square-foot area is equipped with 20 large picnic tables, microwaves and four vending machines offering snacks and drinks for purchase. If employees need to check email or access the internet, they can use one of five workstations, utilize wireless access points or plug into several wired ethernet ports.

The space is fully enclosed, climate controlled and offers small touches to create a pleasant and soothing environment.

If employees need to check email or access the internet, they can use one of five workstations, utilize wireless access points or plug into several wired ethernet ports.
If employees need to check email or access the internet, they can use one of five workstations, utilize wireless access points or plug into several wired ethernet ports. (photo by Susan Urmy)

“At some point, all employees need some time away from work to enjoy a meal or take a rest. But, because our medical center is landlocked, we know that finding space to spread out away from others to do so can be a challenge,” said Chad Fitzgerald, JD, chief regulatory officer and vice president of Health System Emergency Operations at VUMC.

“By building this new space, we hope to offer a comfortable, relaxing place to unwind and recharge in a way that’s also safe and compliant.”

To keep the area safe for employees, the MCE Lounge entrance will be controlled by a Vanderbilt University Police Department officer who will help ensure all those who enter have been screened for COVID-19. The space will be cleaned three times per day in addition to a more extensive cleaning at night, and capacity will be monitored continuously to avoid overcrowding.

Tables will also be spaced six feet apart, and only four chairs will be available at each table.

The creation of the lounge is part of an ongoing effort across the Medical Center to allow employees to maintain social distance while they are not actively working. Efforts to avoid overcrowding are also underway on the Medical Center Plaza and include adding additional picnic tables and using stickers to designate how far apart employees should sit to maintain adequate distance.

“Based on what we know about how COVID-19 spreads, we know that remaining further away from others — especially while we are eating and may not have the ability to wear a mask — is important for minimizing risk of disease transmission and is vital for everyone’s health and safety,” said Tom Talbot, MD, MPH, professor of Medicine and chief hospital epidemiologist at VUMC.

“By properly socially distancing during break times, we are also setting an example for our patients and broader community of what it looks like to care for one another through this pandemic, and we hope these new institutional efforts will make it easier for us all to carry out that responsibility.”

The MCE Lounge is located on the 2nd floor of the Medical Center East Garage and is accessible through the elevators in the Medical Center East lobby. Signage in the area will help direct employees to the lounge’s dedicated entrance.

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