Dr. Nekaiya “Kay” Jacobs, a pediatric intensive care physician in Illinois, is making her patients feel valued by providing them with inclusive hair kits filled with textured-hair products for curls and coils.
“Hair is part of a person’s identity, and recognizing a patient’s identity helps them heal faster,” Jacobs said in a release shared with ESSENCE.
The initiative started after Jacobs witnessed “multiple children experience adverse hair events while in the intensive care unit,” Advocate Aurora Health reports. As Jacobs recalled, one young patient “was immobile in her hospital bed, and her hair hadn’t been protected. By the time she was able to move, the back of her head was bald.”
Good Morning America reported that Jacobs launched her initiative with assistance from coworkers and funding from the hospital’s diversity and inclusion budget in January of this year.
“Our patients who have coily or kinky or wavy hair textures, or our patients with more protective styles like braids, really didn’t have the tools that they needed to be able to care for their hair texture,” Jacobs said.
“We just sat down and said, ‘These are the tools that we would want if we were in the hospital.’ And then we went from there, talking to a lot of our administrators who were really excited to hear about the project and really just supported us,” she added.
What began as small acts of kindness developed into a program for inclusive hair kits and a full-fledged passion project for Jacobs. It connected her with coworkers, and the group ultimately established a textured hair care council within the Advocate Children’s hospital system.
The small clear kits contain textured hair products, including shampoo, conditioner, a wide-toothed comb, a bristle brush and a bonnet.
“I want patients and families to know that we care about each of them as individuals,” Dr. Jacobs said. “We’re here to take care of all of you, not just to give you medicine.
Jacobs and her colleagues began by distributing approximately 200 kits to each Advocate Children’s campus, which prompted several requests from other service units interested in providing them.
“As clinicians, we understand that how you feel about yourself is important. That’s usually the first thing a person apologizes for when a clinician enters the room. Being hospitalized can take a person’s confidence away. We know how important it is to feel like yourself,” Jacobs said.