NewsCovering Colorado


Colorado doctors, nurses adopt the Sacred Pause after a patient dies as a way to bring peace

Hospital worker
Posted at 3:44 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 17:44:45-04

DENVER — Chaos can consume a hospital, but the doctors and nurses at this local hospital now take a few minutes to slow down and reflect after a patient's death — a quiet moment in a busy environment called the Sacred Pause.

When COVID-19 cases surged last summer, hallways were in disarray and urgency spread to every level. Death knocked on far too many doors.

"We knew that we did not want anyone to die alone," said Laura-Anne Cleveland, an associate chief nursing officer at Presbyterian Saint Luke's Hospital (PSL). "That is always our commitment, but more so when they [patients] couldn’t have visitors at their bedside."

Doctors and nurses inside PSL came up with a way to find peace after someone passed away.

"The cuts are deep, but we have to move on to the next person," said Child Life Specialist Kara Hellums. "We need that moment to give us the opportunity to process just a little bit."

After a patient dies, medical staff gather in a circle to read a special message.

Let us take a moment to pause and recognize our beloved patient before us at the time of their death. They were someone who loved and was loved. They were someone’s friend and family member. In our own way and in silence, let us take a few seconds to honor both our patient as well as the efforts we all have made on their behalf. Thank you.

The reading was started by an unknown emergency department nurse. It gives doctors and nurses a chance to gather in a circle and reflect.

"It’s a moment where it’s OK to kind of grieve and reflect and be emotional," said PSL Registered Nurse Laura Herrmann. "Then you continue on with your day in peace."

Hospitals are no longer overwhelmed with COVID patients and visitor restrictions have eased. But the Sacred Pause continues inside PSL and all other HealthONE and HCA healthcare facilities.

"So many patients make a significant impact on our lives," said PSL Chaplain Director Michael Guthrie. "It allows us to pause and recognize that."