by James Coburn
The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City is a dynamic regional center for children that offers best practices in a state-of-the-art setting.
“We have a broad range of experts,” said Jaye Robertson, RN, director of Pediatric Intensive Care Services. “We are physicians of neurology, cardiac surgery, hematology and oncology. Also our nurses are highly specialized and trained in the care of children as are respiratory therapists, our rehab services department and child life specialists.”
Robertson said Children’s Hospital is in a unique position of all hospitals in Oklahoma City to focus on the needs of a child. A common phase at Children’s Hospital is “Children aren’t just little adults. They’re different.”
The staff is specially trained to recognize those differences in order to be able to provide the specialized care children need. Children come to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit when they have complex needs. Robertson said she admires the nursing staff for their skills because she has witnessed them doing amazing things with children.
“Their hands are so skilled that they just do it automatically,” Robertson said with her eyes welling up in tears. “They love what they do. It’s too hard to do what they do if you don’t love it.”
She has seen those skills coupled with so much love and compassion for families. A prayer service was held recently for a child on the eighth floor who was going to have surgery. The nurses make signs for the children’s bedsides and special gifts for their parents. Nurses spend enormous quality time teaching parents about their child’s illness.
“They see some of the most tragic things you can imagine, people who lose their children through traumatic accidents, horrific illnesses. They deal with all of that emotion and they come back the next day with smiles on their faces ready to do it all again,” Robertson said.
Amber Mitchell, RN, said the nursing staff sees many successes among the children. She tells her family, “My job is to keep kids alive.” And she performs that job well. Even when there are not good outcomes with patients, it matters to Mitchell to know she was part of a process of the best treatment made possible.
“To me it’s an honor no matter what — when helping a parent say goodbye to their child,” Mitchell said. “But the successes are really big wins.”
Sometimes a win is a matter of closing a baby’s chest and they tolerate it. A couple of days later the nurses are able to remove the baby’s breathing tube. So the nurses, Mitchell said, will celebrate those milestones along the way.
As days progress, Mitchell is able to tell the parents what to look forward to with their child. Families are excited when seeing the tubes and wires being removed from their children for a good outcome.
“We get to put babies in their mother’s arms the first time after surgery,” Mitchell said.
DeAnna Weaver, RN, said the field of pediatrics works for her because she was inspired by her mother who works as an early childhood teacher. She has always known she wanted to work with children. It’s where she wanted to be.
“I come into work. I enjoy it. I want to be around children all the time,” Weaver said.
The nursing staff is in a continuous learning mode.
Hannah Vinh, RN, updates her skills from year-to-year with continuing education offered at Children’s Hospital. Classes and in-services provide opportunities to develop, Vinh said. Updates for best practices in tubing are valuable, she added. They also attend Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation classes.
“A lot of times adults have a voice of their own. They can speak and tell you what they want,” Vinh said. “Pediatrics is a completely different thing. They aren’t helpless, but they can’t speak up for themselves.”
The nurses must understand vital signs and pay attention to the most subtle aspects of nursing.
“Their families become your family,” Vinh said. “You feel what they feel. Their losses are your losses,” she said.
Megan Johnson, RN, said the nurses support each other by listening to them vent. They bounce questions off each other about methods of treatment. There are neighboring nurses, charge nurses and supervisors to help when a nurse is having a hard day.
“One day we were so busy that our manager charted for me about the patient I was with the entire day, because I could not leave the room that I was in,” she explained.
Children’s Hospital is a microcosm of how the whole world should be.
“We have a fish bowl that allows us to write little notes to our coworkers, our NPs or our PAs, anybody that works with us to give them a little love note,” Johnson said.
Jazmin Velasco, RN, is new at Children’s Hospital and is orientation. Johnson is training her. She cannot help to admire the resilience of families she meets.
“Even when things aren’t going so well, they still hold on to the hope that things can change in a matter of minutes,” she said. “It can turn out to a good outcome.”