Little lights: Hospital bereavement photography program


Little lights: Hospital bereavement photography program


Vandergrift PS; Bryan D; Bishop C


Journal of Palliative Medicine




human; child; female; terminal care; controlled study; major clinical study; gestational age; conference abstract; bereavement; nurse practitioner; mourning; child death; volunteer; burn; e-mail; infant; emergency ward; respiratory therapist; light; photography; hospital personnel; Work engagement


Description: Purpose: The Little Lights program is a novel, collaborative, nursing-led bereavement photography service created as a solution to the challenge of providing consistent high-quality bereavement photography for families and their dying infants. Little Lights was created by a multidisciplinary group including a professional photographer, provides professional bereavement photography training to staff, and uses a collaborative model involving photography performed by trained staff and edited by professional photographers to give families beautiful mementos of the brief window of time with their infant. The model provides consistent availability of high quality bereavement photographs validating their baby's life and solidifying the infant's importance within the family (Blood & Cacciatore, 2014). Overcoming the barrier of lack of 24-hour availability of volunteer professional photographers allows increased access for families which aids grieving, mourning, and healing for families who lose their child (Limbo & Kobler, 2010). Subjects: Families with an actively dying or deceased infant regardless of gestational age or physical condition. Women's Center staff who volunteer for training and participation in the program. Design: A nurse led complimentary bereavement photography program designed to function internally by collaboration between hospital staff and volunteer professional photographers. Methods: A multidisciplinary team created training sessions focusing on technical aspects of photography as well as culturally sensitive end-of-life care. Staff participation is voluntary, and a system was created for notification and designation of staff photographers during their normal work hours. A hospital approved form is used to obtain consent and email information from families, the photography session is performed, the images are sent to professional photographers who edit them, and the photographers email the images to the family. Results: Since initiation of the Little Lights program in December 2016 to May 2016, 29 staff from the Women's Center Departments and the Emergency Department have been trained. 21 of those trained were nurses, and other staff trained include physicians, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, unit secretaries, and volunteers. During this time period, there have been 55 infant deaths, and all families offered the program have consented to photography. All requested sessions have been successfully performed, converted into encrypted files, edited, and dispersed to families. Parental feedback and the described experience of trained hospital staff have been positive. Quality and process improvement is ongoing. Limitations: A current opportunity for improvement is the time needed for editing and delivery of photographs. The goal is to have photographs delivered to families within 72 hours so that they are available for memorial services; however, the current turn-around time is 2 weeks. Other limitations include a misplacement of equipment, rare challenges of staff availability, and the need for ongoing and new training. Implications for Practice: Little Lights addresses common problems experienced by hospitals attempting to provide bereavement photography. It is a sustainable model for the consistent provision of professional quality, compassionate, complimentary bereavement photography. In addition, the program encourages staff engagement with families during their time of need, participation in the grief process, and may help decrease symptoms of staff burn-out.


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Citation List Month

August 2018 List



Vandergrift PS; Bryan D; Bishop C, “Little lights: Hospital bereavement photography program,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed October 2, 2023,