More than 500 families who have experienced perinatal loss-a miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death-have found some measure of healing through the perinatal bereavement program at PinnacleHealth System, Harrisburg, Pa., earning the system an honorable mention in the Spirit of Excellence award for service. Coordinated by a clinical nurse specialist who has personally experienced such a loss, the program includes free cremation services, mementos such as locks of hair, nurses on call 24 hours per day who provide support and counseling for a year, and a Walk to Remember every October.
"We actually meet and gather to walk to a memorial gravesite," says Cheryl Key, the system's vice president of nursing professional development. "We do a service in remembrance of the babies who have been lost over the years."
Based on the national Resolve Through Sharing program, 735-bed PinnacleHealth trains registered nurses as counselors who maintain ongoing contact, prepare patient education materials for each family, and coordinate with community agencies and volunteer groups for additional support.
Key says the hospital has innumerable anecdotal reasons to believe the program has helped families. "We think of delivering babies as a happy time," she says. "We do not often think of the needs of those patients who have experienced loss. They'll call, not only right after a loss, but years later, wanting to talk to somebody about it. We have helped them through those times."