When Keri Shuman, BSN, RN, CHPN, saw the work of a fellow needleworker on social media making adorable, crocheted comfort critters, she knew she wanted to create something similar for the families of hospice patients.
At the time, Shuman was a home care nurse at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, an affiliate of Ohio’s Hospice. She began crocheting the comfort critters for Camp Waves of Emotion, a bereavement camp for children at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, in 2019 and donated several for the camp.
“My teammates helped by adopting each critter, naming it, and writing a little personality profile,” Shuman said. “It was a true outpouring of love and support for the project.”
After three years with Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, Shuman and her family moved to the Columbus area in November 2020, and Shuman joined Ohio’s Hospice of Central Ohio as a nurse at its inpatient care center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“When I came to the inpatient care center, I noticed a lot of the patient visitors were younger,” she said. “I worked with my team and started making comfort critters to have them available for children who come in to visit their loved ones.”
The comfort critters are a welcome surprise to many young children who are facing difficult situations while their loved ones are being cared for in the inpatient care center. The critters offer something to briefly take their mind off the situation. They provide the children with something to hold and play with while they visit with their families. They also are a keepsake.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shuman began putting face masks on the comfort critters because all staff and visitors are required to wear face masks. It helps the children feel a little more comfortable with wearing a face mask when the comfort critter also has one.
Shuman’s teammates praised her dedication and commitment to the mission of Ohio’s Hospice of Central Ohio.
“It’s a pleasure to work with Keri,” said Andrea Baker, BSN, RN, CHPN, program director at Ohio’s Hospice of Central Ohio. “She goes above and beyond her normal duties to use her talents during such a difficult time in the lives of the patients and families we are privileged to serve.”
Penny Moore, program manager at Ohio’s Hospice of Central Ohio, said the hours of personal time Shuman donates to create the comfort critters and everything else she does in the inpatient care center makes a difference in the lives of the patients and families at the inpatient care center.
“There are some nurses you work with that leave an impression. Keri is one of those,” Moore said. “She has a huge heart. She is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and she loves taking care of people. Keri is the epitome of a hospice nurse.”
Throughout her hospice career, Shuman has learned that starting conversations with families early to explain the path ahead is important.
“I don’t necessarily get into the details, but I give generalized overviews of what the next steps are in the end-of-life journey,” Shuman said. “As the steps approach and the patient moves along in their journey, the families are not surprised as things change. They have been expecting them from the beginning, whether or not they realize that’s when those seeds were planted.”
While it has been a bit of an adjustment moving from home care into the inpatient care center, she has found the Ohio’s Hospice of Central Ohio team to be kind and welcoming. “Our inpatient care center team truly approaches the patient experience from a holistic viewpoint,” Shuman said. “I’m honored and privileged to serve our patients and families with such a wonderful team.”
Ohio’s Hospice of Central Ohio, an affiliate of Ohio’s Hospice, has provided a holistic, community-based approach to hospice care since 1982. With locations in Newark, Columbus, Lancaster and Zanesville, the not-for-profit organization serves nine counties in central Ohio and is dedicated to supporting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients and families facing life-limiting illnesses. In addition, two inpatient care centers at Licking Memorial Hospital and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are available for symptom management.