Beads of Courage


Informant is the auntie of the Interviewer from the mother’s side. Informant has been working as a medical nurse for 16 years.


Informant discusses recurring interactions between patients and nurses at the hospital they work at. This event takes place over the course of a child’s stay at a hospital, especially if they are undergoing extensive treatment like chemotherapy. The conversation happened over FaceTime, as the informant was on their lunch break at work when the conversation took place.


Interviewer: “How about like if um, like if a small kid like comes into a hospital like how do you guys make them comfortable?”

Informant: “Oh like bribery?”

Interviewer: “Yeah! Yeah! Like how do you bribe them?”

Informant: “Like toys? We give them toys or, like, like when they’re getting a procedure or… Oh! How about like the beads? Like the beads of courage? That’s pretty consistent. Ok so for you know chemotherapy patients?”

Interviewer: “Mmm hmm.”

Informant: “Uh when they get procedures done like, they’ll have like uhh like specific beads and they’ll make a necklace out of it. So like if they get a shot or like chemotherapy or a medication, they’ll get beads for each specific thing, and I can actually grab you the sheet thing, well, it’s actually like a foundation that provides the beads, you can look it up online, called beads of courage. 

Interviewer: “Cool alright, and the beads represent..?”

Informant: “One bead will represent like a medication, one bead a needle stick, or like a point access. Like each procedure, they get one bead for each thing, and then at the end of their treatment, like they have this long necklace, and it’s like a remembrance of what they’ve been through, yeah.”

Interviewer: “Aww that’s super sweet, yeah.”


I had not heard of beads of courage until this interview, and after listening to my auntie talk about them and learning about their organization, it seems like a sweet memento for a period of extreme anguish. According to the beads of courage website, they “are a non-profit that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and teens coping with serious illness, their families, and the clinicians who care for them through our Arts-in-Medicine Programs” (Beads of Courage, 2021). The organization has been around since 2005 and works with hundreds of hospitals internationally. Beads of courage are not specific to the hospital my auntie works at, but this shared tradition shared internationally across hospitals and their workers shows how international traditions can be. The sentiment of beads of courage exists beyond cultures, the sentiment of receiving a physical item that signifies everything a patient has gone through is recognizable cross-culturally. I enjoy the statement and mission of beads of courage, and think it brings families and patients a source of joy and strength during objectively terrible times.

For more information about beads of courage, visit their website:

Beads of Courage, Beads of Courage Inc., 2021,