Caring for Our Team While Honoring Our Patients

Topic: Team Wellness


Introduction: In our rural hospital, the outpatient palliative care clinic is embedded in the cancer center.  The palliative care and oncology teams develop strong relationships with their patients and family. We identified increasing distress in the teams with multiple losses and limited opportunity to grieve their losses. Literature recommends development of positive health care behaviors and coping strategies to prevent burnout that can occur as a result of chronic exposure to stressors and ineffective coping resources. Our palliative team developed a two-fold service to provide care to our team members along with honoring the patients we have lost.

Methods: Two to three times a year our palliative care team coordinates a Memorial Service. The palliative care and oncology teams are invited to attend. The service provides our teams the opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on losses, to focus on team care and to participate in an interactive art project that honors the patients we lost.

Examples of memorial services:

  1. Devotion led by chaplain around the book “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia.  A team member painted a picture of a tree with branches. As patient’s names were read team members reminisced about their patient. Using an inkpad the members placed a fingerprint leaf on the tree to represent each patient.  This created a beautiful tree full of multi-colored leaves.
  2. Chaplain provided “Blessing of Hands” with readings, ceremonial washing of team member’s hands and anointing of oil. A team member painted a picture of a meadow. As patient’s name was read, team members reminisced about their patient. Using inkpad with stamps members added flowers and butterflies to represent each patient. This created a beautiful meadow full of flowers and butterflies.

Results: Satisfaction surveys were completed by the team members following the memorial service. The services have been well received. Based on recommendations we will expand the invitation to our colleagues in hospice, on the medical floor and ICU as they too care for this group of patients and experience similar loss.


  • Donna L. Butler, NP
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Schneck Medical Center
  • 411 W. Tipton Street
  • Seymour, IN 47274
  • (812) 522-2349


  • Anita K. Collins, MSN, FNP-BC

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