Pausing to Honor the Patient

Hartford Hospital treats some of the sickest patients in the state.

In fact, in FY 2016, more than 6,500 patients transferred to the hospital for the high level of complex care we provide. Unfortunately, not all patients survive their illness or injury, despite the extensive efforts made by the staff.

“The passing of a patient is a difficult moment for loved ones and for the dedicated staff who have cared for and worked to sustain the life of the patient,” said Cheryl Ficara, vice president, Patient Services, Hartford Region. “Yet the pace of the work pulls staff into the next case and allows no time for the emotions that are naturally part of the staff’s reaction to a patient death.”

Helen Perez, RN, Cardiothorastic Surgical ICU, decided that some closure or coping mechanism concerning a patient’s death was needed and helped to implement “The Pause” on one of the units. When a patient passes, all the staff involved in the patient’s care are invited to meet in the patient’s room for a moment of silence to honor the patient and recognize each other for their efforts.


Carol Strycharz, RN, clinical leader, Palliative Medicine, said response to “The Pause” has been overwhelmingly positive and will be implemented throughout the hospital. “It’s a chance to recognize that a life was lost and to acknowledge all the feelings that go along with that,” Perez said. “It is a chance for closure, and, hopefully, it brings a feeling of peace.”

“The Pause” was an idea that originated from Jonathan Bartels, an Emergency Department nurse at The University of Virginia Medical Center. It was published in the February 2014 edition of Critical Care Nurse. At Hartford Hospital, Mary Kate Eanniello, RN, DNP, OCN, oncology nurse educator, was instrumental in spreading awareness about its importance.