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URMC / News / School of Nursing Professor Develops March of Dimes Course For Nurses Working with Families Coping with Infant Death

School of Nursing Professor Develops March of Dimes Course For Nurses Working with Families Coping with Infant Death

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Denise Côté-Arsenault, Ph.D., R.N.C., F.N.A.P., associate and Brody professor, School of Nursing

More than 28,000 infants in the United States die before their first birthday each year, according to the most recent national statistics. Now, nurses can get the latest information and expert guidance on helping families cope with  their loss  from a new March of Dimes training module, authored by University of Rochester School of Nursing associate and Brody professor Denise Côté-Arsenault, Ph.D., R.N.C., F.N.A.P.

A board certified inpatient obstetrical nurse and lactation consultant, Côté-Arsenault has devoted many years to studying, and teaching about, the importance of the caregiver to families coping with perinatal loss. In addition to numerous presentations and publications on the subject, she is a founding member of the Central New York Perinatal and Infant Bereavement Network.

The new educational module is a self-directed course for nursing professionals who care for women and infants. It offers historical, theoretical and clinical knowledge on how to provide effective nursing care for families coping with the loss of a newborn or a pregnancy. It also addresses the potential effects that caring for bereaved families can have on nurses themselves. Nurses can register to download the educational module for free through the March of Dimes Prematurity Prevention Resource Center at

The educational module recognizes that everyone grieves differently, and the expression of mourning varies by individual, family, culture and religion. Particularly when it comes to perinatal loss, there are unique features that must be acknowledged by all professionals who deal with bereaved families.

“It is my hope that this educational module provides a sound foundation of knowledge and understanding for nurses who work with bereaved families. The goal is that that all families who experience the tragedy of losing a baby are cared for sensitively and expertly by a professional nurse who understands,” said Côté-Arsenault.

Being on the front lines of patient care, nurses play a critical role in helping bereaved families deal with their loss, the March of Dimes says. The new module can help nurses be knowledgeable and caring as they address informational, emotional and medical needs of families confronting perinatal loss. The learning module also acknowledges that nurses who encounter challenging life and death situations at work have to pay attention to their own grieving as well, and find effective avenues of personal coping and group support.

“There is no “right” way to deal with loss,” said Liza Gene Cooper, L.M.S.W., who directs March of Dimes family-centered care. “The loss of a child before or soon after birth is traumatic. Families go through periods of terrible grief, and a whole range of emotions, involving not only the loss of a baby but also the loss of everything that could have been.”

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit or

March of Dimes Media Contacts:

Todd P. Dezen (914) 997-4608,

Elizabeth Lynch (914) 997-4286,

Media Contact

Christine Roth

(585) 275-1309

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