Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Hello and Goodbye: Perinatal Loss Doula Volunteers

The Suncoast Hospice Perinatal Loss Program started in 2004, has recently grown to include a new focus on early first trimester losses and expanded training of volunteer perinatal loss doulas. Our program offers specialized comfort, education, and support to patients and families who may experience, or have already experienced, a pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or death of a baby shortly after birth. Our compassionate team of expert nurses, social workers, chaplains, and trained doula volunteers help patients and their families find understanding and peace through every step of their journeys.

Perinatal loss is often disregarded, its impact negated, leaving the woman and her family struggling emotionally and spiritually. Our doulas (also known as birth companions) understand that birth is a key life experience. They listen thoughtfully to what is important to the woman and her family regarding the birth, providing insight on options for managing the labor and delivery. Doulas offer physical and emotional support to mothers and their partners during labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period. They provide a quiet, consistent presence throughout this experience.
After delivery, memory making is an important service that our doulas provide. This involves bathing and dressing the baby, creating hand and foot prints and molds, and obtaining hair locks. Empath Health sewing volunteers make special clothes and blankets used for the baby. These items are placed in a memory box for them to keep. Support pamphlets, brochures, and resources are given to the mother and family as applicable.

In addition, our counselors provide counseling prior to and after the loss. If the pregnancy results in a live birth, our team can work with the family and hospital staff to create a meaningful experience no matter the length of the child’s life. When appropriate, the family can be transferred home to receive care from our Suncoast Hospice pediatric team.

Our Perinatal Loss Program continues to grow and evolve which includes expansion to other hospitals. In turn, we have, and continue to expand the number of volunteer doulas in the program. This entails enhanced doula recruitment and training. To accomplish this, we continue to develop closer collaboration with our Empath Health volunteer department.

This session is intended to develop an increased recognition of the role of the doula during a perinatal loss. Provide a description of the special recruitment and training needs and requirements of Empath Health perinatal loss doula volunteers. Present and describe strategies to develop and implement a perinatal loss program using volunteer doulas.

By Vicki Haywood MSN,  RN, CPAN
Senior Staff Nurse/Care Team Manager
Children’s Program
Empath Health


Vicki Haywood is among the faculty for NHPCO's 2019 Interdisciplinary Conference at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Florida. She will be presenting as part of the session, "Hello and Goodbye: Perinatal Loss Doula Volunteers," on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.

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