Childbirth is usually equated with happiness and tears of joy. Hospitals play lullabies following the birth of a baby, resulting in smiles on the faces of staff and visitors. While most pregnancies culminate in the birth of a healthy baby, about 10-15% of all pregnancies result in miscarriages, and about 1% in stillbirth. What was supposed to be the best day of an expectant parent’s life can become the worst. This DAISY TEAM Award honors the Labor and Delivery Nursing Team that created and sustained a comprehensive program to support parents and families through pregnancy loss and miscarriage.
In 1986, based upon the concerns of a Certified Nurse Midwife, an obstetric nurse and a unit secretary, Morton Plant Hospital’s obstetric service became the first in the Tampa Bay area to offer a comprehensive perinatal loss program. The program has since been duplicated at nearby hospitals. The nursing team gives special thanks for support from colleagues in Mental Health, Pastoral Care and Nursing Administration.
Pregnancy loss and still birth are unpredictable, so there are several nurses who volunteer to work with these patients and families when the need arises. When the loss occurs, the fetus or baby is treated with the utmost dignity and respect, within the parents' wishes. Staff will take photos, dress the baby, take footprints, etc., similar to a live birth. Parents can hold the baby and stay with the baby as long as they wish. Parents receive one on one attention by the nursing team, often by nurses who come in from home to provide extra support. The nursing team gathers regularly on their own time to create "memory boxes" for the baby pictures, clothing and other mementos. Each box is unique and lovingly designed. The labor and delivery nurses have also worked with emergency room patients and surgical patients who suffered a loss outside the Obstetric Department.
Grieving for a still birth or pregnancy loss can be a life-long process. Nurses support the beginning of this process in the hospital, but their support does not end there. In the beginning, the hospital held a support group but overtime, support groups and counseling services became available in the community. The team realized that the holidays would be especially difficult so they volunteered to organize the first holiday candle lighting ceremony in 1988. Parents can light a candle with a pink, blue or white ribbon to honor their baby and have the opportunity to say a few words. Now, Suncoast Hospice partners with the hospital to provide a venue for this special service.
In 1992, the nursing team initiated an annual "Walk to Remember" during October’s Pregnancy Loss month. Initially, a tree was planted in memory of the babies that passed. The walk is now held on the Morton Plant Hospital grounds where a family can release a butterfly in memory of their baby.
This nursing team has lovingly handed the program down to willing successors over the years. Usually, one nurse coordinates the program, but it is those "many" nurses that have created a legacy of caring for patients with pregnancy loss, ensuring that the dream of that baby is not forgotten. It is embedded into the fiber of our nursing unit that a pregnancy loss is as important as the birth of a baby in the hearts and minds of the family who leaves the hospital empty-handed.
In 2017, Morton Plant Hospital will open a new labor and delivery unit, OB urgent care, Mother Baby Unit and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. An anonymous donor is sponsoring the "ANGEL ROOM", dedicated to the families who have had a pregnancy loss and to the nurses who provide the care and comfort in their time of special need.
Team Members honored with this DAISY TEAM Award:
Kristin Kilgore, RN, Nurse Manager
Jessica Maser, RN
Cicely Wulff, RN
Gwynneth Everington, RN