Staff on the Burn, Trauma and Surgical Intensive Care Unit on Braunwald Tower 8CD witness many difficult situations and heartbreak due to the sudden, traumatic circumstances that bring patients to the unit.

“We see a lot of worst-case scenarios on our floor,” said Ruby Rollins, BSN, RN. “Patients never plan on being with us, and it can be devastating for their loved ones.”

8CD nurses are committed to caring for and supporting patients’ loved ones throughout their time on the unit. Earlier this year, they decided they wanted to do even more for families when a patient passes away and offer a tangible and meaningful reminder of their loved one.

“The family is left processing the patient’s end of life and wondering what to do next,” said Kristen Owings, BSN, RN. “And there really aren’t many end-of-life keepsakes for adult patients, so we decided to come up with our own.”

The team worked together to create items to help families honor and remember their loved ones’ lives, including a clay handprint and a printout of the patient’s heart rhythm placed in a small bottle. These items are accompanied by remembrance cards that are available in four languages. Some patients also receive prayer shawls, donated by Rollins’ church.

“I think it makes a big difference for the families,” said Rollins. “No matter what, these families are unfortunately going to be grieving, but I think they’re grateful to have something to hold onto.”

Nursing director Diane Tsitos, DNP, RN, agreed. “When families know that our clinical staff have taken time to provide these keepsakes, it gives them a sense of how much our staff really care. It’s almost like wrapping the family in a nice warm blanket and little hug.”

These small gestures also make a big impact on the care team.

“It’s hard for us when a patient passes away, and it makes us feel a little better to do something for our patients’ families,” said Rollins. “It also provides us with a little bit of closure.”