Excellence in Nursing – Community/Ambulatory: Elaine Copney

Early Fetal Loss Coordinator, Excela Health OB/Gyn; Prenatal Services Bereavement Doula with Pittsburgh Bereavement Doulas


Elaine Copney believes the time anyone can make the biggest difference in another person’s life is during a crisis. Her passion to make that difference has carried her through her career as a baby loss support nurse and certified grief counselor.

Copney has worked in obstetrics for more than 30 years and also has experience in hospice care. Today she does outpatient care in Excela’s Latrobe office, where her duties include running the fetal loss team. She makes calls every day to people who experience pregnancy loss to offer guidance on their options and resources on grief and funeral arrangements.

“Whenever somebody has that loss and someone’s leaving the world, you can’t change what happens, but there is so much you can do to walk that family through the really dark, hard times,” she says.

In her bereavement doula role, Copney assists in situations where a baby has a life-limiting diagnosis and is expected to die either before or after birth. She helps parents decide how they want to handle both the birth and what little time they may have with the baby. She also helps with memory items such as photos, footprints, locks of hair — any memento that has touched the baby.

“We help them know what to expect and help them plan exactly how they want to care for their baby and love their baby until they have to say that final goodbye,” she says. “We help them learn to just hold the baby, cuddle the baby, enjoy the baby, have other family members come in and spend time with their babies.”

Copney also provides postpartum support, following up with phone calls, visits to homes, even texts — whatever the parents need.

She recognizes her work is not for everyone and even mentors other nurses who might feel uncomfortable when assigned to a patient who is having a stillborn. She admits putting her heart on the line day after day can be hard, but she takes great fulfillment from the care she’s offering parents when they need it most.

“I am so honored to be permitted to be present in the sacred space of families dealing with loss,” she says.

Categories: Excellence in Nursing