Michelle Vaughan, BSN, RN, a nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital is always looking for ways to brighten her patients’ days. While driving home from work one night, heartbroken that not all family members would be able to be with loved ones due to COVID-19 precautions, she got inspired.
“At the beginning of taking care of patients during the pandemic, my co-workers and I were heartbroken when talking with patients’ families who were either intubated or sedated,” Michelle shares. “I felt there had to be a way that we could do better. This is the age of information and technology, we have to find a way to connect these patients with their loved ones.”
With support from her manager and clinical care lead, Michelle developed a creative way to allow these critical care patients to hear their loved ones’ voices. Through a project called Be There Bears, family members can opt to have a message recorded over the phone to be played for their loved ones in the ICU.
Michelle takes time on her days off to assemble these bears for patients. Once the message has been successfully recorded in the stuffed animal, it is delivered directly into the arms of the patients. Nurses then play the recording for patients any time they are in their room.
“After calling several families and hearing the messages they left for their loved ones, it brought me to tears. Taking it one step further, getting to put the bears in the arms of the patients, I was overcome with pride and happiness to know that my patients might be able to feel their families’ presence,” says Michelle. “It’s so important not only for our patients to feel the love and support of their families, but for us as nurses to feel connected to our patients and their families as well.”
Michelle is so excited about the success of the Be There Bears and is already thinking about possibilities in the future.
“I am overcome with joy to know that this is making a difference for our ICU patients and their families,” Michelle says. “And it’s my hope that Be There Bears will continue even after COVID-19 is gone.”
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