Enveloping Chemotherapy Patients in a Blanket of Care
It’s well known that the nursing staff at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) cares deeply about their oncology patients.
Now, nurses in the OSUCCC – James Clinical Resource Unit, 5 James Infusion and the Clinical Trials Unit are taking patient care to a whole new level of impact through a Blanket Project that creates and distributes blankets for new chemotherapy patients.
Inspiration for the project struck a decade ago as OSUCCC – James Clinical Resource Unit Nurse Andrea Linhart was driving in her car. “The idea seemed very divine and specific,” she recalls. “I realized that I wanted to make fleece blankets for our patients that said ‘Covering You with Care.’” While it took a number of years before Andrea and a dedicated team of other nurses, administrators and volunteers could pull together the resources to execute this vision, their dogged persistence and a supportive administration got the grassroots effort off the ground.
The project was challenging at first. The team held bake sales to collect money for the fabric and supplies; and, as Andrea describes, “It took us forever to make the blankets. We’d have to roll out the bolts of fabric and hand cut each of the little fringe pieces. We’d be so proud when we made a dozen in two hours.”
A fortuitous connection with L Brands—a longstanding partner to the OSUCCC – James, including through sponsorship of Pelotonia—led to much-needed donations of fabric and other assistance, thanks to Dean Jakobowski and his team in operations and logistics. Dean and his team worked with L Brands’ vendors to source materials that reflect Ohio State’s scarlet and gray colors and maintain a high quality of fleece, enabling what Dean describes as “maximum cuddle factor.”
This project has a special place in our hearts. The idea is to provide intimate care for the patient. Outreach is a crucial part of L Brands culture, and the Blanket Project is exactly what my team and I want to be involved with.”
Indeed, the project helps to create a strong bond between a patient and his/her primary nurse, as the nurse presents the patient with the blanket and explains its significance. “When you place the blanket on a patient,” says Andrea, “you can noticeably see their fear and anxiety go down several notches.”
Leah Salyer, assistant nurse manager on the James Clinical Resource Unit, says that the experience is in line with the relationship-based model of care that OSUCCC – James nurses employ. “This model is about building relationships care of self, care of colleagues, care of patients and care of community. This project has totally changed our organization.”
In addition to the embroidering of “Covering You with Care,” generously provided by Goodman Uniform at a reduced price, the blankets also have a tag that describes how the project “was born out of love and inspiration for our James oncology patients to show our devotion.”
The James Patient Experience department recruits volunteers to come in and assemble the blankets—a much quicker and easier process now that L Brands donates precut fabric. The Ohio State University men’s swim team, OSU students, a junior-high youth group, students from Capital University, and The James nursing staff are just some of the groups who have enjoyed the blanket assembly experience. Says Regina Wicks-Frank, volunteer program coordinator at The James, “The volunteers love doing it. Many of them are survivors. They’ve been through chemo and know what the process is like, and now they want to help other patients.”
Dean, whose team at L Brands has also assembled blankets, describes it as an “emotional, hands-on experience. Everybody can get involved, and there is more of a connection because of it. When you can give a little bit of yourself, it’s a little more special.”