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Nurse prints pictures for patients in the ICU to help them feel closer to family

Posted at 3:24 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 15:15:26-04

Stuck in isolation herself, Jeanna Barbieri can empathize with the loneliness her patients are experiencing right now, as visitors have been barred from most hospitals across the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s just been stressful,” Barbieri said, while sitting insider her apartment after a 12-hour shift in the ICU recently.

She has been a nurse at Lowell General Hospital, located just outside of Boston, for the last six years. In the last six weeks though, her hospital has had to open five new ICU’s to accommodate an influx of coronavirus patients. And every single one of those patients is suffering in solitude.

“I can’t imagine being stuck in there without my family or close friends,” Barbieri said.

Recently, a family friend reached out to her. They had a loved one in the ICU suffering from COVID-19 and they had a simple request for this nurse. Would she be willing to print out a few family photos and place them around the hospital room of their loved one suffering from coronavirus?

Barbieri printed out those first few photos a few weeks ago and hasn’t stopped.

“I just sit here and print them out every night and then bring them to each department to get them hung up in patient’s rooms,” she said.

With the blessing of her hospital, she has started “Pictures for Patients.” Family members of patients send her photos that she then prints out, puts in an envelope and delivers through the ICU.

Barbieri knows for patients who are alone right now, the pictures are a vital connection to the outside world.

“I just want people to remember they aren’t alone,” she said. “I don’t think anyone wants to be alone, especially when they’re sick.”

For patients who are nearing the end of their battles, she says the pictures are particularly important.

“This is end of life for some people, a lot of people,” she expressed. “Nobody should have to go through that alone, and families shouldn’t not have a chance to say goodbye.”

So far, Barbieri and her colleagues have delivered family pictures to more than two dozen patients inside the hospitals. She’s hoping other hospitals see the idea and do something similar.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering