Norfolk General Hospital’s Snoezelen Room offers unique therapeutic space for patients

February marks Recreational Therapy Month- a time to honour the healthcare profession that uses research and therapeutic processes to assist patients in achieving their goals and highest quality of life.

Norfolk General Hospital is proud to recognize Elizabeth Santana this month. Elizabeth is an Activation Coordinator on the 4B Complex Continuing Care Unit.

We would like to introduce you to a program that Elizabeth offers to our inpatients, many of whom are waiting to get into long-term care.

Here is Elizabeth’s story.

Norfolk General Hospital’s Snoezelen Room offers unique therapeutic space for patients

For some patients, all it takes is ten minutes – ten minutes to calm down, gather their thoughts, and refocus.

At Norfolk General Hospital (NGH), a mobile Snoezelen Room located on the 4B Complex Continuing Care Unit is giving patients, many of whom experience dementia, a chance to maximize those ten minutes or longer to boost their mood and improve their quality of life.

The Snoezelen Room is a controlled multi-sensory environment that has been specifically designed to stimulate various senses, using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, and tactile objects.

The Snoezelen Room was first introduced in the Netherlands in the late 1970s as a therapy for children with developmental disabilities. The word ‘snoezelen’ is a hybrid of ‘snuffelin’ – Dutch for ‘seek out, explore’ – and ‘doezelen’ – ‘to snooze.

Through a mixture of equipment, the Snoezelen Room at NGH allows patients to explore a variety of stimuli in a soothing space. Elizabeth Santana, the Activation Coordinator at NGH, felt the room would be beneficial to the growth and success of her patients with distinct needs.

“The Snoezelen Room is a quiet space away from the noise and daily activities on the unit,” said Elizabeth. “It can help reduce anxiety and stress, as well as engage patients through sensory stimulation. The multi-sensory equipment offers visual, tactile, and auditory stimulation that is soothing and relaxing to patients that may feel stressed, anxious or those expressing themselves with responsive behaviours due to their diagnosis or overstimulation in the hospital environment. The program promotes calm and relaxation. It is a great activity because anyone can participate. It creates meaningful interactions without the need for memory recall or intellectual functioning.” 

At this present time, there is no designated space for the Snoezelen Room. All of the equipment used is mobile and is set up for patients to use weekly in the activity room. All patients who are admitted to the 4B Complex Continuing Care Unit can visit the room for a range of reasons and frequencies, whether for 5 to 15 minutes or up to 45-minutes.

 Elizabeth, who has been the Activation Coordinator at NGH for the past three years, is glad she can provide a space for patients to relax and stimulate their senses.

 “I have witnessed patients state that they feel better after attending the program, they feel calmer and less stressed.  When patients are feeling overwhelmed, upset, or experiencing pain, I encourage them to attend the activity to see if it is a Therapeutic Intervention that will benefit them.  Some patients will attend weekly and say “I need this today”.  I have seen patients relax/destress and others become less agitation from participation.”

Since the equipment is mobile, Elizabeth says it can be used at any time.

“Some of the equipment, such as the bubble tube, is used to engage patients in common areas and TV rooms.  Some patients enjoy the fibre optic plumes at their bedside.”

Besides being a welcome break from hospital routine, the Snoezelen room has been found to reduce anxiety and inhibition, and restore to patients a sense of control, something that is typically lost with institutionalization.

I love helping the patients and trying to make their day better.  I strive to make their stay in the hospital more enjoyable, as it is scary and stressful when they are dealing with medical issues and life changes.  It is amazing how the patients come together and create a sense of community amongst themselves when they become involved in activities.  I love that they make friends and support each other.  We like to have fun.”







The Snoezelen Room was established in March of 2022. Since then, roughly eight to ten patients use the Snoezelen Room every week.