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Funding Employee Innovation: We Care Packages

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Each year, the Augusta Health Foundation awards grants to support innovative projects, developed by Augusta Health’s employees, for projects designed to improve the quality of health and healthcare for patients and community. An employee—or a group of employees—sees an unfulfilled need and develops the project to meet that need. Applications for funding are reviewed by the Augusta Health Foundation Grants Committee and then awards are approved by the Augusta Health Foundation Board of Directors. Grants are typically limited to $20,000 or less.

These stories demonstrate many creative solutions that Augusta Health employees develop to meet the needs of their patients, and the assistance of the Augusta Health Foundation to implement those solutions.

We care packages

Socially distanced and masked members of the Augusta Health community holding we care packagesAs Augusta Health’s nurses cared for the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, they became aware of increased emotional and financial stress on their patients. At a Shared Governance Council meeting, one participant mentioned an upswing in the number of patients who were discharged without clothing. There were various reasons—patients arrived without anticipating the need to be admitted, the clothing had become too soiled, or it was damaged during emergency treatment. As the discussion progressed, it became evident the need wasn’t in just one unit—it was an issue throughout the hospital and was impacting approximately 15 patients each month.

In the past, community agencies were available to help, but most of them reduced services during the pandemic. Additional COVID safety requirements meant the only immediately available ‘substitute’ clothing available at discharge was one-use paper scrubs. Obviously not what the nurses wanted for their patients.

So, in collaboration with the Patient Experience department, they brainstormed the idea of a Clothes Closet. Then, COVID-19 in mind, they refined the idea to packages of new clothing: a general package with sweatpants, t-shirt, sweatshirt and socks; another with gender-specific undergarments; and a third with personal care items. They called them ‘We Care’ Packages, and envisioned an accessible closet that nurses and others, like social workers, could use as needed.

“This project is a great example of the true heart and compassion our Shared Governance Council has for our community,” says Amanda Wilson, RN BSN, Director of Professional Practice and Education at Augusta Health. “It was compassion that materialized and turned into something wonderful. It’s a kind gesture that assures our patients that we care for them well beyond their medical treatment here at Augusta Health.”

A niggling problem remained—since the nurses wanted to use new clothing, how would they cover the costs for 180 packages needed for the first year of the project? They applied for, and were awarded, a grant for internal, innovative projects from the Augusta Health Foundation. The Facilities Department then joined the effort to provide the physical space and signage for the ‘We Care Packages’ closet.

“We are very grateful to the Augusta Health Foundation,” adds Wilson. “We could not have done this project without their funding, immediate support and willingness to let us develop our idea. They were the pathway to turn our compassion into action and help us make this project happen.”

Note: The Shared Governance Council is a group of nurses representing the nursing units and departments across the system. They promote shared decision-making and collaboration among all nurses at Augusta Health.