Making Patients Feel Special During Pandemic

Andrea Sweeny, MSN, RN-BC, Pala’s nurse manager, supported her efforts and nominated the nurse extern for a ROSE Award.

When nursing student Julia Pala learned she would be working with patients who have COVID-19, she was happy to help where Christiana Hospital needed her. The University of Delaware (UD) nurse extern wanted to support ChristianaCare staff and patients during the pandemic.

But Pala took her work a step further. While taking vital signs and assisting patients, the UD senior saw an opportunity to lift her patients’ spirits during a stressful time.

“Many patients can’t see family due to pandemic restrictions,” she noted. “They need something to provide normalcy in their lives.”

The enterprising student successfully raised funds to assemble activity resource kits.

For her efforts, she received the ROSE Award in February.

ROSE, an acronym for Raising Our Standard of Excellence, is given to nursing partners who demonstrate ChristianaCare’s values of love and excellence by developing meaningful connections with patients and families.

Julia Pala won a ChristianaCare ROSE Award for her partnership with nurses in caring for patients.

“Julia personalizes each experience with a patient so that they feel special,” said Andrea Sweeny, MSN, RN-BC, Pala’s nurse manager. “The ROSE award goes to nursing partners who consistently go above and beyond in caring for patients, families and colleagues, and Julia demonstrates that trait.”

Pala enlisted the help of Phi Sigma Sigma, a service sorority, and UD’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, a nursing honor society, to raise funds for the kits. She also detailed her plan on Facebook, and word spread quickly.

She purchased colored pencils, pens, puzzle and activity books, coloring books, magazines and folders to contain them. In each folder, she tucked an inspiring note: “Here’s to you — steadier, stronger and better every day.”

People were sharing her fundraising effort in different states. “That was really cool,” Pala said. “I was able to raise about $800.”

Patients have been appreciative. Pala recalled a patient who’d been admitted from the emergency department. He longed to call his family and scroll through photos, but his phone was dead; he didn’t have his charger at the hospital He was in luck: Pala had purchased a collection of chargers for different devices.

“I gave him a charger, and he started breaking down in tears,” she said. “He told me, ‘You made my day. You don’t know how much this means to me.’” Having a full battery took one less worry off the patient’s list, she noted.

As patient visitation is limited due to the pandemic, Pala prepared packages for patients in other areas of the hospital. When she learned that a patient wanted a rosary, she bought 100 of them for the nurses to have on hand.

Patients take everything home but the chargers, which can be disinfected and reused.

Impressed with Pala’s efforts, Volunteer Services developed activity resource kits for units on all ChristianaCare campuses, said Margarita Rodriguez-Duffy, MSW, CAVS, director of Visitor and Volunteer Services.

Rodriguez-Duffy said she was delighted to partner with Pala on the project. “I believe that Julia exemplifies a quote attributed to artist Vincent Van Gogh: ‘What is done in love is done well.’”

To learn more about how to be part of this service, contact Visitor and Volunteer Services  at 302-733-1284, option 4 or e-mail