Busy fingers braid brightly colored thread to create woven loops similar to friendship bracelets one may recall from childhood. Craft time is part of a typical day for patients and staff at Sharp Grossmont Hospital's Behavioral Health Services. During this time, they gather to make hope bracelets.
The creative activity is the brainchild of Sharp staff members Jacquelyn Blaha, Megan Conrad and Krista Dille. The three recreational specialists came up with the idea in order to better engage patients and create a more social and relaxing environment.
"The patients make the bracelets in our locked, high-security unit, which can often be chaotic and noisy," says Kelly Tapp, nurse manager for Behavioral Health Services. "This activity provides an enjoyable outlet to help patients focus. Plus, it is a time for staff to build rapport with patients and for everyone to learn a new leisure skill."
The patients have made approximately 6,000 bracelets over the past three years in groups facilitated by the recreational specialists.
"Recently, a patient in our locked unit was in a group making a hope bracelet and noticed another patient in the unit who was having a difficult time," recalls Tapp. "The other patient was agitated and distressed. After the patient in the group finished his bracelet, he gave it to the distressed patient. She was overwhelmed by the act of kindness and immediately calmed down."
When returning to work the next day, the specialists frequently notice that a different patient will be wearing the bracelet than the patient who originally made it.
"Often, patients will make bracelets in a group and then share the bracelets as an act of peer support. It creates a healing environment for both the giver and the receiver," says Tapp.
The daily group activity can accommodate up to 14 patients at a time. A bracelet-making session is typically 45 minutes or less, depending on how focused the patients are during the activity. It takes a couple of days to complete a bracelet.
"After the bracelet is made, the idea is to wear it, and when it falls off you make a wish or think of something you hope for or dream of, and maybe it may just come true," says Tapp.