Grief is described as a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people and regardless of the reason, it’s a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one. Parkview Health understands that losing someone can affect everyone differently. However, most people find a common sense of comfort in the keepsakes and memories of those they’ve lost.
Multiple departments throughout the Parkview Health system have bereavement programs, each with a different process and various ways to remember patients who have passed. But one area in particular recently gained attention for its high level of accomplishment and organized approach to bereavement: the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU).
STICU’s bereavement program consists of donated, handmade blankets that are specifically blessed by Parkview’s chaplaincy. The program also provides clay molds for hands and telemetry strips of the patient’s heartbeat. Once this program, which began thanks to Lisa Morgan, Educator Professional Development and Clinical Care Nursing Education and Clinical Excel, STICU, became recognized by other departments, it was suggested that the structure of the program be streamlined and implemented across the Parkview Health system. Taking it one step at a time, Parkview began the program in Allen County at Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC) and Parkview Randallia (PVH), before expanding to the surrounding communities.
In February 2019, Parkview formed a bereavement program committee with Lisa and co-chairs Brooke Kinzer, Nursing Services Manager, Supportive Care Unit and Sarah Groves, Nursing Services Manager, Inpatient Oncology. Co-workers from different departments and service lines such as Management and Child Life Services, met monthly to decide what would be included in the bereavement program.
The committee discussed ideas from each department that could be incorporated. The bereavement program was made possible with the help of generous donors who contributed $18,000 through the Parkview Foundation’s Greatest Need Fund. Committee members studied each item as a uniform and standardized process across the system.
“No matter where they are in the entire system, patients and their families should still have these same opportunities, these tangible mementos to leave the hospital with,” Brooke Kinzer said when discussing the newly structured program.
The newly-enhanced program will launch first in Allen County beginning January of 2020. The family of a deceased patient will receive a homemade blanket with a card, a clay hand mold, a “message in a bottle” with the patient’s telemetry strip of their heartbeat and a bookmark that reads, “Those we love can never be more than a thought away for as long as there is a memory. They live in our hearts to stay.” At the top of that bookmark is the patient’s thumbprint arranged into the shape of a heart. Another special item the family may receive is a recording of the patient’s heartbeat they can have placed into a stuffed animal.
While this bereavement program has yet to officially launch, it is expected to console thousands of family members and provide a sense of comfort and healing.
“This is one more thing the nurses and Parkview can do for the patient and their family. It can help with the grieving process and possibly provide closure for the family as well as the nursing staff. These patients sometimes become like family. You hear about their kids and pets and you build a relationship with them and their loved ones. But even if you don’t, we all want closure for the families,” Brooke said.
The bereavement committee has expressed their excitement to see this come to fruition after months of hard work. Sincere appreciation goes to STICU for starting this program and bringing it to others. We are grateful to the Parkview Foundation donors for their generosity and hand in making this vital program possible.
For more information on how to support the bereavement program or other ways you can help, please visit ParkviewFoundations.org. Your generosity heals!