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A sign of caring

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Niagara Health nurse designs a symbol to help comfort our palliative patients and their families          

It started with feedback from a patient’s family. Cardiology staff at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines Site were told the care they had provided was exceptional, however, the family noted there were times at their loved one’s end of life when the hallways in the unit were noisy.

Toni Rogers, Niagara Health Cardiology Program Clinical Manager, brought the concern to her team. She asked them to think about a symbol they could put on a palliative patient’s door to make visitors and staff aware they should make an extra effort to be quiet.

The call to action resonated with registered practical nurse Mark Plantinga.

“The ways we can make care as comfortable as possible is something we’re always trying to be cognisant of, especially in palliative situations,” says Mr. Plantinga. “I started brainstorming some ideas that could highlight those rooms that captured the components of care we really try to strive for.”

On his own time, Mr. Plantinga designed an emblem with a heart at the centre hovering above an outreached hand, symbolising the fragility of life and the compassion of direct and indirect touch when caring for a patient. Mr. Plantinga says the symbol represents how any single person can make a difference for our patients.  

 “We just have to take that extra bit of courtesy when we’re near that room to quiet down to make it as comfortable as possible for them,” says Mr. Plantinga. “I believe this symbol for palliative patients reminds us of how we need to be all the time for everyone.”

“I’m so proud and overwhelmed by Mark’s response,” says Ms. Rogers. “He took the idea and he really put the heart and the emotion behind it.”

Mr. Plantinga says it is difficult for anyone to deal with the end of a life and saw this project as an opportunity to make an improvement in the way we approach palliative individuals and their families. Eventually, the symbol will be used across all Niagara Health sites as a respectful way to highlight palliative patient rooms.