Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Team was awarded Special Recognition for Heroism During the Pandemic by The Leapfrog Group, an independent national watchdog organization of employers and other purchasers focused on health care safety and quality. The honor recognizes heroes that have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to patient safety amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The recognition is announced today as part of the 2020 Leapfrog Annual Meeting. 

The St. Mary’s Hospital ICU Team was recognized for innovating a way to connect COVID-19 patients who were sedated and on a mechanical ventilator with their loved ones. Through this project, called “Be There Bears”, family members of the hospital’s sickest COVID-19 patients could opt to record a personal message over the phone that was then placed into a stuffed animal teddy bear and played for their loved ones in the ICU. Each day, as these nurses entered their patients’ rooms, the first thing they would do is play the recording via the bear.

“This special recognition of the Intensive Care Unit team at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital for Heroism During the COVID-19 Pandemic is an incredible honor,” said Jody Bishop, chief nurse officer, St. Mary’s Hospital. “This pandemic continues, and our team remains focused on providing the quality, compassionate care to their patients for which Bon Secours is known. These nurses took time on their days off to connect loved ones with their families. We are very proud of this team and all of our associates who have been so committed to caring for our community during these unprecedented times.”

Nurses in the ICU will often tell an admitted patient’s family that they are able to hear; that’s why the nurses initially developed, and still continue, this incredible program. Developing this innovation, while facing many fears and unknowns, to bring the love and support of their patients’ families to the bedside is what truly sets the Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital ICU Team apart. Nurses took time on their days off from treating the hospital’s sickest COVID-19 patients to call their patients’ families and assemble these bears in hopes of creating connection and inspiring hope.

These messages were deeply personal and important in the healing and survival journey of these patients and their families. For those whose bodies ultimately succumbed to the disease, the families took comfort in knowing that their loved ones felt their presence and heard their voices through this program. For those who made miraculous recoveries, the greatest reward the nurses on this team felt was when they learned that their patients remembered hearing the recordings of their families while under sedation - and some even thought they were present in the room. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has required hospitals and people who work in hospitals to sacrifice and lead as never before. Leapfrog holds hospitals accountable for the highest standards of excellence in patient care because we know how important it is, and never more so than during a health crisis. So we are honored to give special recognition to the ICU Team at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital for their heroism during the pandemic,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “We thank them for their profound service to their community and their powerful example for all Americans.” 

Nominations for this one-time award were submitted by hospital staff and leadership across the United States. Winners were selected by an interdisciplinary committee of Leapfrog leaders and advisors.