Healing Hearts with Time and Talent


Poster Presentation

Purpose for the Program

Nurses working in the maternal–child specialty are most challenged by bereaved families because they are the most vulnerable and needy in our care. Appropriate intervention can promote healing. By changing the nurses’ professional role from protective to supportive, interventions can focus on assisting the bereaved families make meaning of their loss. The creation of a program that finds ways to link time and talent offered by community members can be a win–win situation that benefits both groups.

Proposed Change

To enlist the aid of community groups and individuals who wanted to volunteer but were in need of direction to provide for those in need. The bereavement council from one labor, delivery, and recovery unit, with about 200 pregnancy losses per year, found difficulty with maintaining supplies for patient memory boxes. This group of nurses recognized the need to discover new resources to help.

Implementation, Outcomes, and Evaluation

Over the past 5 years, members of the bereavement council have uncovered numerous resources for assisting bereaved families. A local DJ started a program that provided an opportunity for the radio station listeners to make blankets and hats. A retired labor and delivery nurse joined forces with fellow nurses to create hand-smocked dresses. Teenagers who needed to earn community service hours, scout troops, and local churches took on projects, such as decorating memory boxes and painting wooden ornaments. Several local photographers joined a national organization that offers families a photo session with their infant at no cost.

The result of our community outreach program has been an increase in available items for the memory boxes, which gives nurses the opportunity to personalize the contents of these boxes for our families. Regular feedback with volunteers, which is offered through e-mail and phone calls, indicates what works and what does not work to further personalize our care.

Implications for Nursing Practice

A renewed commitment to excellence is evident as our nursing staff delivers interventions that provide meaning to the tragedy of death, create a positive memory, and facilitate healing for parents who take home only a memory box. Many who have volunteered have shared stories of their own previous perinatal loss and indicated that through the process of helping others they have also healed themselves. Passion has been ignited in those who have the opportunity to help supply memory box items, evidenced by the generosity of community members and the beauty of the work donated.