UTMB Health students are taking caring to new heights with the Butterfly Project – a student organization composed of interdisciplinary students who volunteer with the infant, pediatric, child bearing and bereavement populations of UTMB and the Galveston community.
“The main purpose of the Butterfly Project is to volunteer time with UTMB patients and bereaved families. It was created to be an interdisciplinary student volunteer organization, so all students have an equal opportunity to experience patient interaction in the hospital and become comfortable talking with patients and their families,” said Sarah Cargill, UTMB School of Nursing student and project president.
The project was a casualty of Hurricane Ike, but thanks to Cargill it has a newfound purpose.
“As a resident of Galveston during Hurricane Ike, I experienced the aftermath first hand. In the face of great devastation I saw the rebirth of Galveston,” said Cargill. "The spirit of Galveston island is extraordinary and I feel proud to call the island home and to call UTMB my school and hospital. Our slogan, “We Stop For No Storm”, is engraved on the inside of our UTMB class rings and is a daily reminder to never give up. This motto and the spirit of Galveston inspired me to rescue the Butterfly Project because it is an important organization that helps people.”
Last month the organization hosted a bereavement training course: “The Elephant in the Room — Talking about Death.” The course addressed grief, loss, bereavement and communication in the health care setting and was taught by registered nurses and certified bereavement trainers from Houston’s Methodist Hospital Intensive Care Unit.
The Butterfly Project has teamed up with perinatal hospital staff to supply the hospital’s Angel Carts with supplies used to help patient’s families who are dealing with loss. The portable Angel Carts are stocked with unique items for patients who are in need of extra support during bereavement such as cards for handprints and footprints and keepsake boxes to hold a lock of hair.
Money was raised to stock the carts during the Butterfly Project's recent fundraiser "Valentine's for Patients". The volunteers sold handmade valentines to UTMB students, faculty and staff to write their own personal messages to patients that were then delivered to their rooms.
“The Butterfly Project embraces the concept of synergy,” said Jessica Peck, UTMB School of Nursing assistant professor and Butterfly Project faculty sponsor. “Volunteers currently participating in the project include physician assistant students, medical and nursing students, chaplains, registered nurses and interpreters.”
Volunteers also joined forces with UTMB’s Infant Special Care Unit for the Preemie Reunion event held last October to honor past premature patients and their families.
Other events that the volunteers participate in are the New Years’ Baby Donation Drive and helping to decorate the butterfly room at the Ronald McDonald House.
“The Butterfly Project has been a great experience for me as a volunteer because it allows students to be part of something that truly makes a difference in other people’s lives as well as their own,” said Stacey De Leon, 2011 president-elect of the Butterfly Project.