Community Collaborations and The Valley Foundation School of Nursing

By: Maya Carlyle

Memory Kits

Working nurse and faculty member of The Valley Foundation School of Nursing (TVFSON), Marilyn Reiss-Carradero (RN, MSN, CCRN)  is on the Rapid Response Team at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center as well as on the Palliative Care End of Life committee. In 2015, she was working with a SJSU nursing student who was learning under her guidance. This student experience was mostly focused on the technical aspects and critical thinking of nursing.  More though, this student learned about the caring that goes hand in hand with nursing.

Marilyn and a group of ICU nurses had previously piloted a program adapted from the 2014, 3 Wishes Project  at St. Joseph’s Healthcare ICU in Hamilton, ON, Canada, which set out a way for clinicians to connect empathetically with patients and patients’ families while working in the emotionally heavy environment of an ICU and caring for patients as they reach the end of their life. This connection was facilitated by a “memory kit”;  a small collection of items – ribbon to tie a lock of hair from the recently deceased, clay to impress a hand print, a small ‘forever’ candle (a battery powered votive), and a sympathy card for the healthcare team to give messages to the family. The kits are kept in the department, completed (with permission of the family), and then shared with the family.

This memory kit is one small way to help families in the sacred moments after the death of a loved one. It also  facilitates the beginning of the grieving process.

The student who was shadowing Marilyn that year moved quickly to help support this program, with the help of the Alpha Tau Delta (ATD), a professional fraternity/sorority for nursing professionals. Immediately upon hearing about the program, the ATD students began finding ways to support it, including creating a committee for the planning of long term fundraising. Since joining the program, ATD has helped fund and create up to 170 memory kits every year.

Since 2015, the SJSU Nursing students have been very faithful to this project, even through the COVID-19 pandemic. A meaningful and memorable bond forms when the bedside nurse is able to utilize the kit and present the items to the family. We are very grateful to the students for their time and generosity.” – Marilyn Reiss-Carradero

Sue’s Story

Sue's Story PosterAnother moving story of collaboration is that between The Valley Foundation School of Nursing and The Sue’s Story Project. The Sue’s Story Project was begun by Robin Shepherd, Chuck Berghoff, and Sue Berghoff, a “tough but fair” teacher who had spent seven years in the Department of Linguistics and Language Development at San José State University, after a dynamic career in tech. After being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a fatal neurodegenerative disease that is the second leading cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s, Sue decided to turn her diagnosis into a good for the world, educating healthcare professionals, advocating for research, and shining a light on Lewy Body Dementia to lessen the stigma and bring hope to families coping with the disease.

Having connected in 2019 with The Valley Foundation School of Nursing via Dr. Stefan Frazier of the Department of Linguistics and Language Development, The Sue’s Story Project now works with TVFSON faculty members Dr. Nancy Dudley and Dr. Daryl Canham to educate and empower nursing students and the wider community. Through interactive workshops including panel discussions with subject matter experts, healthcare and social services professionals, and connections to local medical facilities, this partnership seeks to continue Sue’s dream of education and hope.

Robin ShepherdTogether, we can #DisruptDementia, one beautiful mind at a time.

Ways to donate to the cause and steps for requesting a workshop presentation can be found on The Sue’s Story Project website.

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