By: Jill Olney, Assistant Manager of Nursing, Cardiac ICU
There’s something special about the people I’ve gotten to work with in my 16 years at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Their clinical skills are top-notch, but it’s the little things they do that really speak to the kind of people they are.
It’s not unusual for me to leave a shift having watched a nurse help Mom and Dad through their baby’s first bath or decorating a patient’s room to make their stay more comfortable.
It’s on the toughest days—the kind of day when it takes all of your energy to hold back tears and be strong for a child’s family—that I feel especially proud to work with my fellow nurses.
Our staff—chaplains, doctors, nurses and child life specialists—band together to walk alongside patient families who experience loss. We help with after-life decisions, preserve memories by making handprints and footprints, and even use a recording stethoscope to capture a child’s heartbeat.
It’s a tough job, but it’s also one we take to heart and are always trying to improve for our patients’ families.
My unit’s chaplain, Samantha, told me about Rachel’s Gift, a nonprofit that helps grieving parents with after-life staff training and memory-making resources. One unique way the group supports families is by creating handmade bereavement gowns from donated wedding dresses. The gowns offer a way to clothe a child in a nurse’s love and relieve one decision a parent must make during such a difficult time.
I shared the idea with my colleagues and asked if anyone would be willing to donate their wedding dresses—some decades old, but each very special—to become new creations for our patients. The response was overwhelming.
As nurses, we take pride in standing guard over our patients and letting them know we’re with them through the toughest of times. Our ability to care for the emotional needs of a family is often just as important as how we tend to physical needs. Offering a bereavement gown is one lasting way we can care for a family.
In the below gallery, my fellow nurses share—in their own words—what this special type of donation meant to them.
Rachel’s Gift Inc. partners with hospitals to assist parents through the initial phase of infant loss through a base of caring and knowledgeable volunteers. They provide grief assistance for the families as well as a training program for nursing professionals and care givers on companioning patients through infant loss.
Their ultimate goal is to provide a healthy environment to begin the grieving process to minimize long-term psychological damage to individuals and their families experiencing infant loss while at the same time providing lifetime keepsakes of their child. These keepsakes will be a lifetime reminder and a physical connection to the child who was only in their arms a matter of minutes or hours.