Ann Coyle, RN, BS, a nurse in the NICU at Virtua Voorhees (N.J.), was chosen as the winner of the 2012 Amazing Nurse contest, sponsored by The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursings Future. She was honored Dec. 2 as part of the “Sixth Annual CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute” live broadcast show.
According to a news release, Coyle cares for critically ill premature babies and nurtures the families of those babies, as well. Coyle also is the first person called to counsel families when babies do not survive.
As a tribute to those children and their families, Coyle was the inspiration and force behind the Angel Garden, an outdoor waterfall and garden at the hospital that is a place for families to heal and to have their childs name engraved on a memorial.
Almost a decade ago, Coyle became the facilitator of a bereavement support group for parents who have lost children.
“The HOPING support group has been an amazing blessing in my life,” Coyle said in the release. “Parents start out feeling like they are the only ones in the world to experience this grief. They connect with others who are going through the same experience and within a few sessions they are helping new members in the group. It is just wonderful to watch the healing process.”
After attending a conference in Chicago on pregnancy loss six years ago, Coyle returned with a proposal for a memorial garden, according to the release. The space was designated during the design phase of the new Virtua Voorhees hospital, but Coyle made it a reality. She raised more than $30,000 for the project. At the dedication ceremony, butterflies were released in memory of the children whose names are now inscribed on the waterfall wall. A statue of a stone angel overlooking the garden and the babies it represents was chosen by the parents who had lost children.
“Ann is an exceptional clinical nurse who treats everyone she meets with compassion,” says Ann Campbell, RN, MSN, CNAA, Virtua chief nursing officer. “The beautiful Angel Garden is one of the many ways that Ann goes above and beyond what is required. She is truly deserving of the Amazing Nurse award.”
Every year in December, Coyle holds a memorial service for all families who have lost a baby. The names of the children are read and ecofriendly balloons are released in their memory.
“It is important to remember in December,” Coyle said. “Parents need to feel that they are doing something for their baby during the holiday season.”
In addition to her bereavement counseling, Coyle also is a positive force on the NICU staff. She is described in the release as the glue that keeps people connected. Coyle created a red carpet awards ceremony that recognized each person in the NICU for contributions such as keeping the neatest notes and giving the best patient reports. In 2012, Coyle started a kindness project on the unit. The nurses wrote a kind word about each co-worker. Coyle ordered business cards with all of the kind words inscribed for each person so they will remember what was said about them.
“We are very proud of Ann and the way that she represents all nurses at Virtua,” Richard P. Miller, Virtua president and CEO, said in the release. “She is dedicated to providing an outstanding experience to her patients and their families, as well as her co-workers.”
Coyle was nominated by her colleagues for the award. When she heard she had become a finalist in the contest, she said she was just happy to have been included on the list. When the call came informing her she had won, Coyle said, “I never expected to win. I really just couldnt believe it.”