UMHS staff receive grief relief with programs, support

May 12, 2015  //  FOUND IN: Announcements, Updates & Resources,

Like many UMHS faculty and staff who work in clinical care settings, the nurses, technicians and administrative staff on the 8D Progressive Care unit at University Hospital experience loss and grief on a regular basis.d.fw

The 20-bed, 24-hour unit provides care for acutely ill medical-surgical patients as well as patients in transition from the intensive care unit to general care and rehabilitation floors. Unit employees care for patients with chronic conditions or who have been in accidents—many of whom rely on lifesaving ventilator support and face uncertain recoveries.

“This unit has a population of patients with very long hospitalizations and the connections staff form with these patients have a significant impact on their sense of grief and loss,” says Sara Ganser, LMSW, clinical medical social worker. “Recognizing this, we wanted to create a culture of healthy grieving and a supportive environment for all staff to deal with patient losses.”

Ganser, who serves as a social worker in the unit, coordinated with Samantha Judkins, RN, BSN, nurse supervisor for 8D, to develop a program they call “The Practice of Good Grief.” Together they collaborated on a healthy grief presentation at their unit retreat, followed by a three-part series involving the following topics:

  • Significant Stories: Speaking the Truth about Loss.
  • Clinical Issues: What to do, when to do it, and What it Leaves you Holding.
  • Self-Care: How you Address Grief at Work and Home Matters!

“We know that simply sharing your experience of loss can have a tremendous healing effect,” says Ganser. “We try to provide an environment where staff feel free and open to discuss their feelings. These conversations are often very therapeutic.”

Other topics discussed include clinical decision making and how to honor wishes of family members even if they might differ for those of staff. Through the program, staff are equipped to provide support to both patients and visitors while being offered personal support at the unit level.

The programs and support offered on 8D are only one part of the many efforts being made at UMHS to address grief among our employees.

The U-M Health System’s annual Grief Awareness Week began May 10 to acknowledge staff losses, both personal and professional. Events and activities offered will help renew the head, heart and spirit. Grief Awareness Week programs cover the depth of our human experience through sadness, laughter, story-telling, music and creativity.

“I enjoyed at Grief Awareness Week,” said one UMHS staff member. “I am blessed for all the wonderful opportunities I have had to work in this area, and for the relationships I have had with so many patient/families and caregivers throughout the years. Relationships really are the key in patient family centered care.”

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