Envisioned by a College of Nursing faculty member and managed by nursing students, the project gives grieving families a sterling silver pendant bearing their child’s fingerprint.
Nurses often are the first to know and witness the private suffering of families faced with tragedies that medical care can’t fix. When a positive outcome proves impossible, these student nurses think beyond the hospital walls to the lives forever changed.
“The Precious Prints project highlights the compassionate art of nursing,” says Katherine Bolton, a member of the College of Nursing Student Nurses Association, which manages the project. “The caring, supportive, family-centered component of nursing is a piece that is not easily taught in a book or a classroom. It is a way for our student nurses to invest in families and honor those patients whose lives ended too soon.”
Developed in partnership with Knoxville-based Precious Metal Prints, the project was launched at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in January 2012 and now is available at all major hospitals in Knox County. Nursing students hold fundraisers and collect donations to provide the kits at no cost. They also have trained hundreds of staff nurses on the project and how to obtain an optimal fingerprint of the child.
The small token has meant a great deal to countless families. “Nothing will take away this pain,” said a mother who received a pendant after the death of her son. “But my pendant is a tangible memory of the life Alex lived, physically touched by my little angel. It’s a reminder that Alex was real. And some days, I just need a reminder.”
To date, more than 350 families have received a print. The students hope the charms can help to begin the healing process and provide a lasting memory for these parents.
Education and experience have taught UT student nurses that lives don’t have to be long to be beautiful and important. In return, these future caregivers have reminded everyone that Volunteers can make a difference.