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  • #SharedHearts

    Claire Cox
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    The Critical Care team at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals has begun implementing a heartwarming idea, Shared Hearts, to support loved ones of patients.


    Imagine your loved one is in hospital. They are in intensive care, dying of coronavirus. They are scared and alone. You are not allowed to visit. You are not able to share the last moments with the person you have shared your life with. You are heart broken.

    Nurses caring for the dying are also heartbroken. We feel we have let you down, we feel helpless, we feel that this virus has already stolen so much from you.

    A phone call to say your loved one has died is not enough. It feels cold and unsympathetic.

    I was sent an idea by a colleague who saw a tweet by staff at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. They had an idea that hearts would be shared by patients and relatives. This was a fantastic idea.

    With that seed planted, I did a call out on my Facebook page for crafters in the community to make hearts. They could be knitted, quilted, sewn, crocheted or felted, just as long as they are about 6-7cm in size

    .At this point I hadn’t got permission to do this or even thought of the process. Too late… .the first bag of handmade hearts had arrived with in 12 hours of the initial call out!

    The process:

    • Your patient is identified as dying and is given a handmade heart.
    • If they are on the ward, a relative might be present. They will be able to choose a matching heart.
    • The heart is placed with the dying patient and the relative keeps the matching one.
    • Once the patient has passed away, a card with personalised message from the nurse is sent.
    • If the patient sadly dies alone, a heart is placed with the patient and the matching one is sent, along with the card, to the next of kin.

    I needed to get others involved but every team in the hospital is busy.  Would they even be interested?

    Our palliative care lead, Steve was the first person I spoke to. He was really keen and introduced me to the Patient experience manager, Jane.

    Together we came up with a design for the card and finalised the process. We then needed posters and a question and answer sheet for the wards. Emma, one of the critical outreach team is shielding, so we used her expertise in poster design and excel to organise the process sheets and a distribution list.

    With money donated to the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Charity we bought baskets to place the hearts in  and paid for printing. The whole project came to life a matter of days. The red tape has seemed to have disappeared. Instead of endless meetings and blockers, quality improvement projects are coming to life quickly, its liberating!

    People from across Sussex have donated their time, materials and love in making these hearts. One lady in her 80s has said that she has felt helpless during this pandemic, but since hearing of this campaign, she feels that she now has a purpose and can support others.

    Deaths are not statistics, they are our mothers, father, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. Every life matters. As a community we care.

    We would love to see all hospitals and care homes take on this initiative. For more information, please contact me: Claire@patientsafetylearning.org



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    Infection control. 

    all hearts that come to us stay in quarantine for 72 hours away from clinical areas. 

    They are kept in the ward office in envelopes ready to be given to the Patient and relatives to ensure minimal touching of the hearts.  

    Hearts can then be washed in a 60 degree wash at home.  

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