Teala Green and Rigel De Ocampo bring a patient-centered artistic touch to their work as registered nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Green has been at the hospital since 2001 and is a mentor to De Ocampo, who started in 2013. While they play a huge clinical role in helping care for some of the most delicate babies, their artistic touch connects with patients in a compassionate way. In their rare free time, they hand-make personalized name tags for each baby.
“In the grand scheme of all that we do in the NICU, making name tags is a small thing,” Green explains. “But it's a personal gesture that hopefully makes families feel welcome. Anything we can do to make them more comfortable and make them feel that their baby has our full attention is important.”
Patient care is the top priority for Green and De Ocampo, who both work the night shift, but they usually find a small window of free time between 3 and 5 a.m., and that’s when the creativity flows. Green goes free-hand, while De Ocampo uses stencils. They both visit craft stores often and spend their own money on supplies.
“Some of our NICU co-workers also donate stickers and paper cutters for the name tags,” De Ocampo says.
“And when Secret Santa season rolls around, name tag ingredients make great gifts,” Green says.
For the nurses, the best part about creating these small tokens of thoughtfulness is the impact it can have on families.
“The best direct feedback I ever received honestly brought tears to my eyes,” Green explains. “Several years ago, I took care of a baby with a life-limiting genetic defect. Early in the shift, I quietly made him a name tag and placed it in his room. When mom noticed it, she started crying and thanked me for making their son ‘seem like a real person.’”
De Ocampo notes that it also serves as a memory during what is often be an emotional time.
“The name tags also serve as souvenirs for parents, which they usually place in their baby's scrapbooks,” De Ocampo says.
It is a long-standing tradition that the two plan to continue for future NICU patients and families.