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The Daily Wildcat

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UA nursing alum will receive award for uplifting program

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A UA nursing alumna is being recognized for founding a charity program called Beads of Courage.

Jean Baruch, a pediatric oncology nurse who is the chief executive officer of Beads of Courage, will receive the College of Nursing Alumnus of the Year Award on Friday. She will speak at 10:30 a.m. at the Homecoming Collegiate Showcase, “Celebration of Courage” in the Gallagher Theater and will receive the award at a separate alumni event in the afternoon.

Beads of Courage is an internationally-recognized program that supports more than 30,000 patients. The Tucson-based program serves cancer patients and children with cardiac conditions or other chronic life-threatening conditions. It has also been implemented in more than 100 children’s hospitals throughout six countries and the U.S., she said.

“I’m really proud that I kind of inspired nursing to change their practice,” Baruch said.

The program allows patients to receive different colored beads for each step of their treatment. Every bead color represents a specific part of the treatment process and acts as a “visible language,” Baruch said.

For example, for every blood transfusion, children receive a red bead. If they have an overnight stay at the hospital, they get a yellow bead. For radiation treatment, patients receive a glow-in-the-dark bead, and for tests and scans they get a light green bead.

“The program provides a long-lasting tangible symbol of all that they go through while receiving treatment for cancer or another serious illness,” Baruch said.

Baruch sees the program as a “dose of narrative medicine.” For the most part, people look at journal writing and intervention, she said. The Beads of Courage program is more “developmentally appropriate” by “allowing the children to tell their story in a very visible way,” Baruch said.

On a day-to-day basis, she receives feedback from families who have benefited from Beads of Courage, she said. The program works with age groups ranging from infants to young adults. She recently visited with an 11-year-old member in Dallas who made a bead for her.

“It was the first time that a member of Beads of Courage gave me a bead and actually was taking bead-making classes on her own after seeing the program and being inspired by the program,” Baruch said.

She added that Beads of Courage has allowed nurses to feel “better equipped” to meet the needs of patients and be an emotional support system for them.

“I really believe that we’re affecting nursing practice with this program because it’s the nurses that give the beads at the bedside,” she said. “It strengthens their therapeutic alliance with their patients.”

On average, cancer patients are treated for two years. By the end, most children have more than 500 beads in their collection, Baruch said.

“By giving the beads, you get instant recognition of their day-to-day courage,” she said.

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