Nurses Partner With Quilters to Improve Patient Experience

July 6th, 2018

Nothing provides comfort like a hand-made quilt. Thanks to a group of volunteers from Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Philipsburg, critical care units at St. Mary’s have a very special way to support the end of life experience for patients and families. In a patient’s final hours, nurses, where appropriate, will offer to cover the patient with a quilt, made and donated by church volunteers. Families can take the quilt home after their loved one passes.

“Dying is a very important part of life,” says Jo-Anne Schwass, a Registered Nurse in MSICU. “We try to make it as intimate as possible. It shows how much we care and realize that this is a really difficult time for families.”

Jo Anne Schwass, RN with MSICU

Jo Anne Schwass, RN with MSICU

Last year Jo-Anne met a member of the quilting group at an event and learned about its efforts to donate quilts to local and international organizations. The goal of the group, called Project R.E.D., is to piece together 500 quilts a year from clothing that is either donated or found at thrift stores.

“I thought this would be really good for our end of life patients,” says Jo-Anne. The unit had recently begun sending sympathy cards to the families of those who had passed away “to let them know we think about them after they are gone. They’re not just a number.”

On the left is Jo Pierre, retired RN and on the right is Gina Quiring, RN

On the left is Jo Pierre, retired RN and on the right is Gina Quiring, RN

Brenda Hoerle, Project R.E.D coordinator at Zion Church, says the group thought it would be nice to invite St. Mary’s nurses to join in knotting the quilts. Recently, for a second time, current and retired St. Mary’s nurses participated and shared some of the family response to the quilts. “When you hear the feedback, it really tugs at your heart strings,” says Brenda.

The atmosphere in the patient room often shifts dramatically when the quilts are presented. Patterns conjure up fond memories and, before long, tears turn to laughter and reminiscing.

In the middle is Lisa Cox, St. Mary's MSICU staff member

In the middle is Lisa Cox, MSICU staff member

Known for organizing patient and family wedding on the unit, staff and physicians in MSICU recently marked a special anniversary for a couple who celebrated each year with dinner at their favourite restaurant. Jo-Anne says Dr. Chris Hinkewich proposed having the restaurant deliver a meal for the patient’s wife and family. A table, complete with table cloth, china plates and flowers was set up in MSICU. The patient died two days later.

Retired RN Nancy Doadt

Nancy Doadt, retired RN

“When we can’t do anything more medically, it’s nice to be able to give in a whole different way,” says Jo-Anne. “We get cards from families saying, “I can’t believe you would take the time to do that.”

Project R.E.D appreciates donations of fabric, quilt batting and crochet cotton. For contact information visit

This story was also featured in The Record. Click here for the story and video.