Maggie Dines

April 12, 2021
Maggie Dines, a social worker at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, pauses outside the burn unit. Photo by Molly Blake, UCHealth.

Social worker busts boredom in burn unit

While visiting the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital Women’s Care Center, Maggie Dines, a licensed clinical social worker, noticed the new moms happily knitting baby hats in a little circle.

The group was chatting, laughing and sharing tips about nursing or diapers. It felt more like a book club meeting than a hospital.

A light bulb went off for Dines whose primary responsibility is the UCH burn unit.

Dines calls the burn unit, “a family,” one where there are no patients, only survivors.

Burns are painful and can be disfiguring. The injuries often lead to long stays in the hospital. For example, a person who has burns on one percent of their body will generally stay in the hospital one to three days. Someone with a burn on 30 percent of their body is looking at likely more than a month in the same hospital room.

The recovery is daunting and lonely.

Knowing that socialization positively impacts well-being, Dines and her colleague launched the weekly Burn Boredom Busters program with a $1,000 grant from the gift shop for supplies and materials. She organized interactive games, crafts, welding and painting projects, a luau with grass skirts and exotic mocktails and themed events including carnival day and an elaborate race car day.

“Race car day was a special request from a car-enthusiast survivor who was with us for 180 days,” said Dines.

A patient painted a tiger as part of the Burn Boredom Busters program. Photo courtesy of Maggie Dines, UCHealth.

“Boredom Busters became this very natural clinical intervention and support group,” said Dines. “Drawing mountain landscapes and manipulating plastic eyeballs onto Minions movie crafts meant they were also doing occupational and physical therapy without even knowing it.”

Family members were included, too. And when someone with a 15 percent burn sits next to a survivor with burns on 70 percent of their body, it provides undeniable perspective for everyone.

It was the highlight of the week for many, and continues to be despite the pandemic. Dines adjusted to COVID-19 by packaging up the projects and delivering them to survivor rooms. She looks forward to reconvening in person as soon as allowed.

“It’s beautiful to see the engagement and witness this culture of camaraderie among survivors,” said Dines. “It’s so healing.”


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About the author

Molly Blake is a communications specialist for UCHealth. She joined the team in 2019. Molly spent much of her journalism career freelance writing for various publications including The New York Times, NBC news, alumni magazines and more. She is the proud spouse of a United States Marine Corps veteran, and wrote extensively about their life in the military.