Nurses Support Festival of Trees

A commitment to caring and community service comes with the “RN” nurses earn with their clinical education. Participating in the Friends of Hospice Festival of Trees has become a tradition for several Shore Health System nurses, who use the event to express their creativity while raising money for The Talbot Hospice Foundation.

“I was drawn to a fundraiser that benefits hospice because as a nurse I have seen so many patients in the hospital who are discharged to hospice care,” says infection control nurse Julie Bryan, RN, CIC. “We never know when one of our loved ones will need these services.”

Bryan says, “The main reason I do this every year is that, by giving my time and talent to decorate a tree, I can give more money than I could if I wrote a personal check.” For example, the tree Bryan decorated for the 2008 Festival of Trees with her daughter, Laurie Fountain, a phlebotomist in the Emergency Department at Memorial Hospital, raised over $700 for the Talbot Hospice Foundation.

Eight years ago, Bryan invited her friend and nursing colleague, Ruth Sullivan, to participate in the Festival of Trees. After apprenticing with Bryan for five years, Sullivan formed her own Festival of Trees decorating team. “I invited my sister-in-law and some friends to decorate a tree with me,” remembers Sullivan, who is director of patient and family advocacy for Shore Health System. “Since then, each of us has had a personal connection to hospice when a loved one needed this end of life care.”

Sullivan, who also leads the Shore Health System Spirit of Christmas campaign, an annual fundraiser for the Salvation Army and employees in need, says, “Studies show that our mental and physical health improves by giving to others. The Festival of Trees is a natural for nurses because providing the best quality of care at all stages of life is a critical part of our mission”

Michele Williams, RN, a nurse at Memorial Hospital, decorated her first tree for the Talbot Hospice Foundation fundraiser in 1999. “That year, my father died at my house with the help of hospice. I suggested to my sisters and mother that we participate in the Festival of Trees to help us get through the holidays.” Their tree, decorated with a nautical theme, was donated to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in honor of their father, who restored wooden boats.

Williams encouraged fellow nurse, Lisa Cook, RN, to participate in the Festival of Trees when Cook lost her parents. Williams, Cook and colleague Jennifer Miles, RN, further demonstrated their commitment to quality and compassionate end of life care by obtaining management support for a Palliative Care Suite at Memorial Hospital. The private patient room and family lounge is a daily comfort for patients and their families, when they face the medical, emotional and social issues related to a terminal illness.

In 2004, the year the Palliative Care Suite opened, Williams, Cook and Miles decorated a “memory tree” for the Festival of Trees. This tree now stands in the family lounge of the Palliative Care Suite. “We change the decorations for each season and the staff adds pictures of people who have died throughout the year,” Williams says. “The tree, which is a reminder that we have all lost family members, has brought us together as a team.”

Williams and her family continued their support for the Talbot Hospice Foundation again in 2008 by decorating the six-foot “Coming Home for Christmas” tree and a four-foot “White Christmas” tree. Williams and Cook each donated a miniature tree for the cause.