Berry wins statewide award


Piedmont Newnan Hospital’s Joanna Berry, RN, BSN, was awarded the prestigious Georgia Hospital Heroes Award at the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Annual Meeting on Nov. 11. Berry, who was one of only 10 individuals statewide to receive the award, was recognized for her creation of a special program that helps nurses cope with traumatic patient situations.

“I am so happy for the attention this award is bringing to the Angel program so that it can be started in other facilities and give nurses the emotional support they need,” Joanna Berry, RN, Piedmont Newnan Emergency Department, said. “I hope with the support of the GHA that the Angel Program can spread nationwide.”

The work of an emergency department (ED) nurse can be stressful, especially in circumstances when, despite the best efforts of doctors and nurses, patients pass away. For most people, dealing with death is a major life event that happens very infrequently, but for nurses, death is part of the job. After a patient dies, nurses must stifle their emotions and do their best to meet the demands of their job. These may include comforting a grieving family one minute and caring for another patient the next.

Berry knew she could somehow make it easier for nurses in these situations. She came up with the idea for a program that would provide immediate emotional support to staff members dealing with a patient’s death. Known as the Angel Program, it is where staff members volunteer as “angels” and come into work for up to two hours to relieve a grieving caregiver. Many times, all the nurses need is a few minutes away to take a break. The “angels” bring food, coffee, a helping hand, or whatever is needed. They also help staff the unit so that nurses who have just had a tough experience with a patient can clock out and decompress if they need to.

After an “angel” response, Berry puts together a private presentation for the caregivers who have been through a trauma. They receive a dove pin, a handwritten note that thanks them for serving the patient who passed away, and a poem written by a nurse about the difficulty nurses go through in saying goodbye to patients called, “Another Goodbye.”

“We applaud Joanna Berry and her creation of the Angel Program, which is beneficial not just to the nurses, but to patient care as well,” said GHA President Earl Rogers. “When nurses who have just experienced a tragedy are given the opportunity to step away, they can return refreshed and ready to perform their job responsibilities to the best of their ability, ensuring patient care is at its peak. Joanna is a most-deserving recipient of this award.”