‘There will always be someone next in line to care for’

South Shore University Hospital rolls out “The Pause” initiative

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The last year at South Shore University Hospital has been a whirlwind of emotions and trauma. Nurses and frontline workers battled a worldwide pandemic, with very little time to stop and process their emotions.

It was because of this cycle of constant motion that the emergency department decided to implement a program titled “The Pause.”

“The Pause” was developed by Jonathan Bartels and involves reading a passage followed by approximately 45 seconds of silence. The passage is kept with staffs’ badges. This pause allows workers to honor a patient who has died and ground themselves before returning to work.

At South Shore, “The Pause” was implemented after the Collaborative Care Council at the hospital created a healthy work environment challenge in November 2019.

“It had to do with how you could implement something across the system and the ED [emergency department] is very different than the floor units, so we tried to think of something that we could relate to the medical floor units and unfortunately, that is when patients expire because that happens in any setting on any floor,” said nurse Amanda Sagendorf on why the emergency department chose this initiative for the challenge.

The ED later won the company’s Healthy Work Environment Challenge, and the program is being implemented throughout the hospital. Even though taking two minutes may seem inconsequential to outsiders, the nurses said the program has really helped them emotionally.

“You’re sort of in this world where you’re treating one person and you need to quickly go to the next person,” said nurse Jessica Svoboda. “We sort of get that depersonalization and desensitization to death and tragedy. The pause really allows us to stop and reflect on things, whether it be something going on in our own life or to say a prayer or a poem, or whatever we need to say for a person of our community who has passed away. It sort of brings back some of that humanization and a little bit more of that humanity to a job that has seen a lot of death.”

According to South Shore, before implementation of the cards, 52 percent of staff reported that the amount of stress they feel is unreasonable. After their implementation, the percentage of staff reporting unreasonable stress dropped to 19 percent. In addition, there was a 28 percent increase to the survey response, “I leave the room of an expired patient feeling closure.”

“I think pausing and having a moment of silence among team members who see tragedy every day is really important, and it really helps us with our mental health and moving forward with caring for others,” Svoboda said. “There will always be someone else that is next in line to take care of, and we need to refresh in order to take care of the next one.”  

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