Health Central team fosters heartfelt connection through painted rocks

Team members at Orlando Health’s Health Central Hospital have been painting rocks for patients and families as part of the Two Hearts Program.

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  • | 12:24 p.m. April 29, 2020
(Courtesy photo) Orlando Health team members love being able to provide patients and families with a sense of connection through the Two Hearts Program.
(Courtesy photo) Orlando Health team members love being able to provide patients and families with a sense of connection through the Two Hearts Program.
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In a time when COVID-19 has  put a halt to most social interactions, finding new ways to connect with loved ones has become more important than ever.

That connection is especially important for those who either have loved ones in the hospital or are hospitalized themselves, because many facilities are either limiting or not allowing visitors. Although technology such as video chat is helpful, it’s not the same as being at a loved one’s bedside or being able to hold their hand. 

Health care workers at Orlando Health’s Health Central Hospital in Ocoee recognize the importance of that connection, and when the coronavirus pandemic began, they had to think outside the box.

“When COVID-19 happened, we realized that the level of visitation we were used to was going to significantly be a lower number in the sense that people were not going to be able to have a huge amount of family members with them either while they were sick or if they pass,” said Kerry-Ann Farrow, patient care administrator.

Farrow, the hospital’s spiritual-care department and nursing leaders collaborated to discuss what they could give to families and patients that would lead to an increased sense of connection during this time.

They came up with the idea of the Two Hearts Program, which consists of a pair of painted rocks connected by a theme. Each one has a heart on it. They chose painted rocks out of inspiration from colleagues, who last year began painting rocks and giving them to patients.

“The rocks are actually in a pair, so two rocks are painted together,” Farrow said. “They don’t need to look the same, but they have a theme between the two of them, and every single rock that’s painted has a heart on it. Really it’s a very simple concept — the patient has one of the rocks, and the family member has the other.”

Admitted patients who are able to consent are asked if they would like to participate in the program. For those patients unable to consent due to condition, the chaplain team gets involved and calls the family to offer them the opportunity. 

“If the patient is discharged home — which of course is always our hope — then the rock gets to come home with the patient and gets reunited with its twin at home with the family,” Farrow said. “If the patient actually does not make it and they pass away, then our chaplain department reaches out to the family and it arranges for collection of the rock, along with handprints and hair locks, so they can have something that was with the patient at their time of passing.”

Courtesy Orlando Health
Courtesy Orlando Health

Scott Fleming, manager of spiritual care, said his team knows family support is very important in the healing process. Touch is especially important, he said. Since patients’ families cannot be at their loved one’s bedside right now, the  team knew the importance of connection between patient and family.

“The families cannot hold the patient’s hand or hug them, so we thought it was important to have something that would represent that process … they can feel that connection and care and feel not only closer but connected in a tangible way,” he said. “It also is an opportunity in the end-of-life process, because whereby because families aren’t coming to the hospital as much when patients die, my team of chaplains are unable to provide the extent of spiritual care we would like to our families. 

“By calling the family and arranging them the opportunity to pick up the second rock, it gives the patients’ families that actually come to the facilities (the chance to) meet with the chaplain and be able to not only assess where they are spiritually, psychologically and emotionally (but) also allows them the opportunity to talk,” Fleming said.

Rocks are painted by team members at Health Central, and those in various departments answered the call to help. About 100 pairs of rocks have been painted thus far.

Some rocks are painted with inspirational messages. Another pair, Farrow said, is decorated with a volcano on each rock. One of the pair reads, “I lava you,” while the other reads, “I lava you more.” There are rocks with gnomes holding purple hearts, ladybugs in the shape of a heart and more.

“We at Orlando Health are here for both our team members and our patients,” she said. “With this project, we found that it not only replenishes (the rocks) and (our team members) can paint these rocks and give back, but it has also proven to be extremely emotional and beneficial for our patients and our families. … I think we have some hidden artists here at Health Central. Some of them are just amazing.”


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