The Health Central Hospital surgical team used to give patients a thank-you note as part of their post-operation discharge packet.
The card read, “Thank you for choosing us,” said Teri Collard, the Ocoee hospital’s supervisor of surgery. But the message didn’t seem appropriate for some patients, such as those who had just had a mastectomy or miscarriage.
“We knew we needed to do something else,” Collard said.
The hospital’s patient-experience team brainstormed different ideas for fostering a connection with the patients on a more personal level.
“Hope is the only emotion stronger than fear,” Collard said. “We kept coming back to that. … There’s healing in staying positive. We wanted to do something with hope.”
The idea was cemented when Collard was in church one day and a quote by Dr. Dale Archer popped up on the screen.
It read: “If I could find a way to package and dispense hope, I would have a pill more powerful than any antidepressant on the market. Hope is often the only thing between man and the abyss. As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from it.”
The solution was to dispense hope, Collard said.
They considered armbands and lapel pins before deciding on Hope Rocks.
“I not only wanted to inspire hope with the patients, but I wanted to inspire empathy with the employees,” Collard said.
She orchestrated a team-building event at her house with the surgical team and set out rocks, paint and paint brushes so everyone could start creating.
“When we start the event … I say, ‘What would you (as the patient) want to hear? If you’re the person here who just had a mastectomy, or had a miscarriage, what would be helpful to you?’ Collard said. “And they just went at it.
“There were no limits to what they could paint,” she said. “Some are female-oriented, male-oriented; some have scripture.”
When she opened up the painting project to the entire hospital staff, she received enough inspirational rocks to fill a large bucket, which was donated to the new Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center facility on campus.
Each rock is placed in a small burlap bag and given to the patients.
Orlando Health does not fund this project. Paint, rocks and money have been donated to keep Hope Rocks going.
Collard has challenged her surgical team and wants to see everyone handing out rocks. Cancer patients and those who have lost an unborn child will receive a rock, but it extends even further.
“If you’re talking to someone with a hard diagnosis … feel free to give them a rock,” Collard told her team. “If you hear someone having a hard time, maybe lost someone, give them a rock. And, sometimes, it might not be the patient who loves the rock, but the family member might love it.”
Collard said the surgical doctors, nurses and technicians are enjoying the responses from patients.”
“This is going that extra mile,” she said. “And it’s fun. And the team is now thinking, ‘Hey, maybe we can make ornaments for the patients.’”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.