by James Coburn, Staff Writer
The first thing Grant Thompson considers when a patient arrives at the Pediatric Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital, OU Medical Center, is that the patient is safe and stable.
Thompson is a day shift nursing supervisor. He has worked there for 25 years. The unit is the recovery room for heart patients, he said, and they go directly from the operating room there.
“We connect them to the monitors, to the ventilator, to the IV medications that they might need,” Thompson said. “We make sure their bleeding is controlled.”
Pain is kept under control, and the perimeters are different depending on the type of defect repair. The medications used are different.
“We try to reunite the baby or the child with the family as soon as we are in a good place — about 30 minutes,” Thompson said.
It is also the only unit of its kind in Oklahoma that’s staffed by board certified intensive care physicians with specialized training and experience in the care and treatment of patients with congenital cardiac anomalies and disease, said Scott Coppenbarger, hospital spokesman.
“We also have a large number of RN’s with sub specialty certification and training in pediatric cardiac care,” he said.
Thompson’s career path began as a paramedic years ago. His big fear was always coming upon an accident involving a child. He went to nursing school at Oklahoma City Community College, Thompson found he wanted to work in an intensive care unit.
“I thought pediatric critical care hearts. I had never heard of such a thing. It scared me to death and I thought, ‘Face your fear.’ So I came here to face my fear,” Thompson said. “I fell in love with it.”
Composure involves great peripheral vision with a focus on detail.
“You have to be able to stay calm under pressure because you’re unable to help anybody if you’re frazzled yourself,” Thompson said.
Very complex and critical patients are manageable as long as the nurse sticks with the designated process and their training, he said.
So many of the children born with heart defects did not survive beyond late childhood or at all decades ago. But today they are able to thrive through modern medical surgery.
“To be part of that is really something special,” he continued. “In the years that I’ve been here I’ve run into the children that we’ve had at Target. And their families recognize me. It’s very heartfelt to know that you’re keeping families together. That child is going to have a healthy life.”
Family centered care involves the moms, dads and grandparents to help advocate for the child, Thompson said.
A collaboration of physicians and medical staff work well together to benefit the child in a community approach.
It’s a whole team that take care of the babies there. This involves pharmacy, child life specialists devoted to developmental needs, neurology, oncology respiratory and other types of therapists, wound care specialist, the heart wound bypass coordinator and even the housekeeping staff.
“It’s a whole village and they round multiple times a day and invite the parents to be included in that round,” said Jaye Robertson, RN, director of Pediatric Intensive Care Services.
The nurses without asking bond together by helping each other, the patients and families. Micah Thompson, who is not related to Grant, works as an RN supervisor in the unit.
“We’ve definitely evolved over the years,” Micah said. “We provide care here in the PICU and in this hospital that no where else provides. The sickest of the sick kids come to Children’s.”
The unit offers all kinds of specialities that are unique in the state. Micah said it is fun and interesting to relate to the children and be with their families.
“It comes as a package deal. The families are our patients as well,” she said.
Communication with the family members is ongoing. Most of them stay over night with their child at the bedside. The bedside nurse converses with them sometimes on a minute to minute basis depending on how the patient is doing.
“And then us, the supervisors and leaders, we’re rounding on the patients and their families. We round on the nurses to see how we can help them,” Micah explained.
She finds the nursing staff to be compassionate and steadfast. They stay the course because they have an inner strength to take care of the kids and their families. Nurses are quick on their feet, well organized and have a passionate desire to serve their patients.
“Kids are the strongest set of patients, I think, that exist,” Micah said. “They are very resilient. They overcome a lot of things in their lives. And most of them get well.”