Celebrate Caring: New Jersey NICU nurse helps new parents heal after a loss

VOORHEES, New Jersey (WPVI) -- It's National Nurses Week, a time to honor those do-it-all health care workers.

Independence Blue Cross is again honoring some outstanding nurses in our area, naming the three winners and seven finalists in its 4th annual Celebrate Caring campaign.

The winners and finalists represent a wide variety of nursing specialties from psychiatric care to flight nurses.

A South Jersey nurse was picked as a winner for work in healing broken hearts.

"It's the best thing my mother ever made me do," says Ann Coyle, RN, of Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

Coyle's mother had no doubt her daughter would be a good nurse.

But in her early days in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Ann wasn't so sure.

"These little tiny babies are scaring me," she kept thinking.

Ann finally confessed her concerns to a nurse practitioner supervising the unit, who put Ann's fears to rest.

"She said I wouldn't give them to you if I didn't think you couldn't do a good job taking care of them," she recalls.

After that, Ann devoted herself to the NICU.

She also began working with the parents who lost babies and educating her Virtua co-workers on relating to bereaved families.

Her experience as a young widow was a guide.

"Everyone's intimidated and afraid of grief. They don't know what to say, they don't want to say the wrong thing," she said.

Dr. Ronald Librizzi, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine, saw Ann doing this on top of her NICU shifts, and recommended her to lead a new Perinatal Bereavement Program at Virtua Voorhees.

"Nursing is the heart of medicine, from my point of view," Librizzi said.

"Saying nothing if you're sitting with someone and holding their hands is OK," Ann said of her approach to bereaved parents, letting their grief guide the way.

Ann helped create the Angel Garden and Memory Boxes to remember babies lost and the Rainbow Babies program to celebrate families who have a healthy baby after a loss.

"It's a rainbow after the storm," she said.

"We put a rainbow magnet on their door, we give them a rainbow knitted blanket that someone made, we do little rainbow footprints," she says with a smile.

There's also Run With the Docs, which funds the program, and lets parents who've lost babies connect.

"When you see 400, 500 people around you that are in that same boat, I can tell you, that's a very very heartwarming and healing kind of environment," said Librizzi.

Ann Coyle will be there on June 12 when Run with the Docs returns in person.

Independence Blue Cross donates $2,500 on behalf of each winner to a charity of their choice.

Not surprisingly, Ann will donate it to the Virtua Foundation for use in the NICU.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.