Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

Celebrating our nurses: Krista Krejce

Krista Krejce's love for nursing started when she was 14.

Krista Krejce, RN, is an avid sports fan, holding season tickets for her three favorite teams: the Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Twins and Green Bay Packers. On her own team in the operating room at Children’s – St. Paul, where she has worked for 10 years, Krista is a valuable player, coach and referee who manages the daily flow of surgeries.

“Krista’s role as charge nurse can be challenging,” said Sarah Schawb, patient care manager, perioperative services. “She is responsible for coordinating the flow of patients and surgeons in and out of the operating room. It can get intense when you’re managing 30-40 surgeries per day, especially if surgeries get delayed. But Krista does it all flawlessly and keeps things running like clockwork.”

Krista’s love for nursing started when she was just 14 and began volunteering at United Hospital. She started her career at United, working in labor and delivery and surgery. She enjoyed working with babies and children, so she decided to make the move to Children’s.

Since joining the surgery department, Krista has been active on unit council and serves as the lead for general urology and gynecology surgeries. She recently joined the value analysis team to help evaluate new surgical products and equipment. She’s a resource for her coworkers and for others across the hospital, Sarah said.

“The nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists all have a great respect for Krista,” Sarah said. “She holds everyone accountable and keeps our surgery department running. Yet she’s very humble, especially when it comes to the great work she does outside of Children’s.”

Krista has been volunteering with the non-profit organization Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesotafor the past three years. She was inspired to give her time to this cause after her best friend’s daughter lost her battle with cancer. When the 16-year-old was nearing the end of her life, her family found that there was no independent hospice care where children could go if home or the hospital wasn’t an option. After she passed, her family and friends got involved with Children’s Lighthouse, which is raising money to build an independent home to provide short respite breaks for children with life-limiting conditions and to offer families an option beyond the hospital or home environment for compassionate hospice care.

“There’s nothing like hearing stories from families who need a place to go when their child is near end of life,” Krista said. “It can be unbearable for some families; Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota will give families and kids a place where they can rest, play and get away from what they know in life.”

Children’s Lighthouse hopes to build an eight- to 10-room hospice center in the west metro. Once complete, it would provide children and families with a place to stay, as well as services such as music therapy and aromatherapy, and most importantly, staff who are familiar with the physical and emotional needs of children and their families to provide palliative care. Children’s Lighthouse hopes to raise enough money to not only build the physical space, but be able to allow families to stay free of charge.

While Children’s Home Care services has offered hospice care for children for 35 years, Krista says Children’s Lighthouse will help fill a need for a free-standing physical space to care for children.

“There’s nothing in the Midwest that provides these hospice services to kids,” Krista said. “We’re hoping to spread the word about the importance of this service and create a place where families in the region can come for care.”

Krista brings her professional talents and personal experiences to Children’s Lighthouse by helping organize and support fundraising events such as the Nature Valley Bicycle Beneficiary and the Children’s Music Festival.

In her work at Children’s and Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota, Krista stays motivated by the people that surround her.

“Knowing that families trust us to take care of their kids is a great feeling,” Krista said. “When you’re working with patients and families who have life-ending illnesses, anything you can do to bring a smile to their faces makes you feel good. When my friend asked me to get involved with Children’s Lighthouse, it was a no-brainer for me. These families need someone that can help them and someone who they can trust. And I have a passion for doing this for families who need it.”

Thank you, Krista, and all Children’s nurses for all you do for the children and families of our community.

Excellence in nursing: Marie Koldborg

In honor of Nurses Week, we’re celebrating the amazing and inspiring work of our nursing staff. Read a profile of Marie Koldborg, RN, who works in the Minneapolis Emergency Department (ED).

Marie Koldborg, RN, has been with Children's for 37 years.

If you ask a colleague in the Minneapolis ED to list off their nursing mentors, chances are Marie Koldborg would rank highly on the list. Marie has been with Children’s for 37 years and has worked in the Minneapolis emergency department (ED) for 24 years. As a staff nurse, course instructor and mentor, Marie has become well known for her excellent nursing skills, professionalism and kindness.

“In her nearly 40 years with Children’s, Marie has made a difference to an incredible number of patients, families, nurses, physicians and countless others across Children’s and the nursing community,” said Claudia Hines, patient care manager in the Minneapolis ED. “She exemplifies the true meaning of nursing and the passion needed to make a difference. Her incredible energy and enthusiasm are consistently demonstrated in all aspects of her practice.”

Marie has a passion for learning and looks for ways to challenge and push herself in her daily work. She has stepped up, and stepped out of her comfort zone, to take on education and training for her unit and in the community. Marie is a certified instructor for five courses required for ED nurses. Since she began teaching in 2004, Marie has logged countless miles to train more than 4,000 nurses, physicians, emergency medical technicians and others on emergency care.

“I love getting out and doing the trainings and working with other professionals,” said Marie. “Over the years, the trainings have taken me to Bemidji, Duluth, Albert Lea, Cass Lake, Fergus Falls, Osceola, Red Lake, Eau Claire and many other rural communities, plus hospitals in the Twin Cities. It’s great to share the knowledge that Children’s has, but also to see what other communities are doing to help care for children.”

“The trainings Marie has done are an amazing contribution to the education of pediatric healthcare professionals in our region,” Claudia said. “She is a wonderful teacher and makes it a fun learning experience for her peers. Her dedication and passion for teaching has not only touched health care professionals but more importantly has impacted the emergency care children receive in all regions of the state.”

Marie has been a leader on her unit through her participation in unit council and as part of the nursing practice structure committee. She has helped train and mentor many new ED team members and helped develop the unit’s new employee orientation program. Her colleagues respect her for her strong nursing skills and for the human touch she brings to her care.

“Marie is a role model for all nurses on our unit,” Claudia said. “She goes out of her way to comfort distressed families when they arrive in our ED. She has a big heart and is quick to offer a hug to a parent or grandparent and helps them keep calm while we assess and care for the child. She’s a great example to her colleagues and represents the patient- and family-centered care that Children’s is known for.”

For Marie, the people, patients and the ongoing activity of the ED keep her motivated and energized.

“It’s been a love affair,” Marie said of her time in the ED. “I love working with patients and families, and I love the daily challenge that the ED brings. Every day is different; we see everything from the normal to the extreme. I like the variety, the unique patients we serve and the opportunity to continue to research and learn in order to provide the best care for kids.”

Thank you, Marie, and to all Children’s nurses for all you do to care for our patients and families!

Celebrating our nurses: Sarah Lovern

In honor of Nurses Week, we’re celebrating the amazing and inspiring work of our nursing staff. Read a profile of Sarah Lovern, RN, who works nights in the Cardiovascular Care Center (CVCC) in Minneapolis.

Sarah Lovern, RN, plays music on her phone to a baby during the first surgical case with International Children's Heart Foundation in Voronezh, Russia.

Sarah Lovern always knew she wanted to be a healer. As a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sarah majored in biology and Spanish, with a minor in chemistry. During that time, she worked as a nursing assistant in a neuroscience intensive care unit (ICU) and newborn nursery. After receiving a touching thank you letter from the family of a patient she cared for, Sarah knew she was destined to go on to become a nurse. Since then, she has combined her love of science and languages in her career as a staff nurse in the Cardiovascular Care Center (CVCC) at Children’s – Minneapolis and through her volunteer work around the world.

“Sarah is a talented nurse as well as a committed volunteer,” said Maureen Kelpe, patient care manager, CVCC. “She volunteers on our unit as a quality coach and on our unit council. She takes her commitment to caring for children even further by giving her time, expertise and energy to local and global organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children.”

As one of two quality coaches on her unit, Sarah is responsible for doing prevalence studies one day per month to assess patients’ skin and peripheral IVs. She has received specialized training in skin, wounds and IVs, and passes that training on to her colleagues in the unit. She is continuously working to improve her practice and is currently pursuing an advanced degree in Nursing Leadership/Administration. She also plans to receive her certification in critical care nursing and receive her certification as a nurse executive. She has a passion for learning, and enjoys sharing what she knows with others.

“After all, everything we know in nursing, we learn from each other,” Sarah said.

As part of her unit council work, Sarah is working with Child Life Specialist Judy Sawyer to roll out “Beads of Courage,” a nation-wide arts-in-medicine program that helps support and empower patients going through a serious illness. As patients celebrate milestones in their treatment, they will be given a colorful bead as a symbol of their courage. Sarah and Judy have secured the funding, supplies, and training and will be launching the program for all CVCC caregivers during Nurses Week and enrolling patients before summer.

Outside Children’s, Sarah gives her time to Camp Odayin, which provides safe and supportive camping experiences for kids with heart disease. She has also volunteered at Neighborhood Involvement Program, a free community clinic in Minneapolis for low-income families, where she provided vaccinations and primary care services.

Sarah Lovern, RN, plays with children during developmental assessments at an orphanage in Haiti.

“Service volunteerism is one of my greatest passions,” said Sarah. “I love traveling to new places and seeing how non-governmental organizations can develop sustainable programs to alleviate disparities and health gaps for pediatric cardiovascular (CV) patients. In the last year alone, I’ve been on mission trips to Haiti, Spain, Nicaragua and Russia to observe what nurse leaders there are doing to care for critically ill patients. It’s been eye-opening and extremely inspiring to see how we can use the information to improve outcomes for kids around the world.”

On her trips, Sarah partnered with non-governmental organizations such as the American Red Cross, Project Health for León, Children’s HeartLink and the International Children’s Heart Foundation to observe what nurse leaders are doing across the world to care for critically ill patients.

In all of her work inside and outside Children’s, Sarah’s compassion for her patients shines through.

“Whether she is on the floor or in a foreign country, Sarah has a clear dedication to bettering the lives of children,” said Maureen. “She is a compassionate and caring nurse who forms bonds with all of the patients and families she interacts with. Her professionalism, excitement for learning and dedication to improving cardiovascular outcomes make her an inspiration to all nurses.”

Thank you, Sarah, and all Children’s nurses for all you do!

Five Question Friday: Sarah Woolever

This week’s edition of Five Question Friday gives a nod to Music Therapy Week. Let’s learn more about Children’s music therapist Sarah Woolever. 

Children's music therapist Sarah Woolever writes, records and performs songs around the Twin Cities.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

1½ years

Why did you decide to go into music therapy?

I did a lot of service projects in high school and was very involved in the choir and marching band (go, drumline!). I knew I loved working with people, and I personally gained so much out of my musical experiences beyond learning how to play an instrument. Performing as a profession wasn’t for me, and I didn’t want to be in education. Music therapy was the perfect balance of both my passions.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

I have so many great memories it’s hard to pick one! Recently, I received a referral from a child life specialist in the hematology/oncology clinic. A 2-year-old girl had been in the clinic for procedures every day for the entire week. She was tired of being there and needed an intervention that would change the environment and her mood, as well as give her an alternate focus during procedures. I brought developmentally stimulating tasks that really motivated her. She smiled, sang, danced (while sitting on her bed) and successfully played new instruments. She was in charge by making choices and leading her mom and myself while playing our instruments or thinking of new words to familiar songs. She focused on the session for over 40 minutes – a really long time for a 2-year-old! It was a normalizing experience where she could be herself. During this time, her nurses were able to do their work without protests and mom was able to relax as well.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love spending time with my husband and our 17-month-old, Declan. I love hosting dinner parties as well as practicing yoga.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

I know I just wrote that performing wasn’t for me… but I do write, record and perform songs around the Twin Cities with my bandmate. Writing music is a great outlet for me, and it keeps my musical skills sharp.

Music therapy profile: Kim Arter

Kim Arter memorizes songs quickly.

We continue to celebrate Music Therapy Week by focusing on music therapist Kim Arter.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

2½ years

Why did you decide to go into music therapy?

I started as a nursing major in college, but I was still involved in choir and voice lessons, as music is such a big part of my life. I wanted to find a music profession combined with a helping profession. After discovering music therapy, I took an orientation class and was hooked. I knew it was the right fit for me.

What’s your favorite instrument?

Voice. I love to sing and hear others sing!

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with family and friends, especially outside when the weather is nice. I also enjoy baking and catching up on scrapbooking.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

I memorize songs quickly, and they stay in my memory for a long time. I can still sing most songs from my elementary school music programs.

Music therapy profile: Erinn Frees

Erinn Frees has worked at Children's for four years.

We’re celebrating Music Therapy Week, and today the spotlight shines on music therapist Erinn Frees.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I’ve worked at Children’s for four years, almost to the day!

What is a typical day like for you?

Usually, I start off my day by organizing the referrals we get (typically 40-50 per week) and trying to plan which floors I should go to at what time. Then I set sail with our wonderful new music therapy cart, which is filled with guitars, keyboards, drums, a harp and other percussion instruments. I then spend the rest of the day trying to see as many kids as I can get to, and work with them on physical, cognitive and emotional goals through music.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

I have many favorite memories, but this one sticks out in my head: I was working with a young school-aged boy. We were singing, playing instruments and laughing when he suddenly looked up at me and asked, “So where do you work?” When I explained to him that what we were doing was my job, he said “No, that can’t be right! At work you’re supposed to be, like, really crabby and have lots of papers and stuff!” I’m very grateful to have a job I absolutely love!

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love spending time with my new husband, trying to learn to golf, spending time with friends and family, playing flute with various concert bands and pit orchestras and trying new restaurants. Oh, and I really like cleaning – it’s such a huge stress release!

What’s one interesting fact about you?

The first “big” concert I ever went to was on my 6th birthday. My dad took me to see Bruce Springsteen, and our tickets were in the very last row. We started chatting with a guy who asked us, “Since it’s her birthday, would you guys like some better seats?” He then led us up to the front row, center stage and we watched the concert from the best seats in the house. Bruce even gave me his guitar pick!

Watch Erinn sing with a patient:

Music Therapy from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

Five Question Friday: Sandy Cassidy

April 20-26 is Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. At Children’s, we have more than 120 laboratory staff members who work behind the scenes to perform and interpret more than 1 million critical lab tests every year. We’re pleased to introduce one of our lab superstars, Sandy Cassidy, who works at our St. Paul hospital. 

Sandy Cassidy has worked at Children's for 19 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

Nineteen years.

Describe your role.

I’m the technical specialist for the transfusion and tissue service. I make sure that the transfusion service runs smoothly by writing procedures and making sure we are compliant with all the standards from the regulatory agency that the blood bank falls under. I help develop training and competency programs for transfusion staff.

What drew you to working in laboratory sciences?

When I was in the 11th grade, we had to write a paper on a career that we were interested in pursuing. I wrote my paper on a medical lab technician. At the time, I had no idea that this was an actual job. While doing the research for my paper, I found the job really interesting so I started looking for schools that had medical lab technician programs.

What do you like best about your job?

I think what I like best about my job is that it is different every day and that there is always something challenging to do. Working with children is rewarding.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to spend time with my husband and two boys. My boys are busy with baseball in the spring, which keeps me busy running them back and forth between practices and games. When I’m not running my boys around, I’m busy crocheting and knitting for craft fairs that my sister-in-law and I attend all year long.

The volunteer under Twinkle: Vince Opheim

Vince Opheim has been volunteering at Children's for six years.

Have you ever seen Twinkle, the mascot of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and wondered who is inside that smiling blue star? Chances are it’s Vince Opheim, who has volunteered as Twinkle for nearly six years. He describes his volunteer time as “some of the most-fun experiences I’ve ever had.”

Opheim is the volunteer who often plays Twinkle, the Children's mascot.

Why play Twinkle? Well, the answer was quite simple, Vince said.

“It is another way to not just make kids smile, but parents, too! Twinkle is my version of Superman… Well, “Superstar.” By day I am Vince, a full-time employee of AT&T and aspiring RN, but when it is time for an event … I transform into Twinkle, the big blue star that brings smiles and laughter. Where else can you dance in polka-dot pants, be asked to come to school for show and tell, or rock out with inflatable guitars?”

The true question is where doesn’t Vince volunteer? In addition to volunteering as Twinkle at special events, Vince volunteers every Monday evening on the inpatient units, providing laughs and comfort through the healing powers of play. He also volunteers his time at events such as Starry Night and the annual Children’s Star Gala and monthly at the Diabetes Support Group. Vince has created two fundraisers benefiting Children’s: a Zumba class (where Twinkle showed off some moves!) and his “Pasta for Peds” event: a spaghetti dinner, silent auction and karaoke contest.

What is his motivation for giving so much of his time to Children’s?

“You get the feeling that you are meant for certain things. I know I was meant to volunteer at Children’s,” Vince said. “A nurse once asked me this same question, ‘why volunteer?’ I pointed to the child’s room that I had just left and told her, ‘See the smile on that sleeping baby? That is why I volunteer.’ Words cannot explain the incredibly positive feelings I receive when I leave a child’s room. Whether I am painting fingernails, watching Elmo, telling jokes, or simply holding a hand, every moment is memorable and worthwhile. These incredible kids have taught me so much, and I am thankful that I am able to spread some cheer during their stay every week. I always leave with a huge smile on my face.”

We are thankful for Vince and all of our volunteers who help to make Children’s a very special place for families. Happy National Volunteer Recognition Week!

Five Question Friday: Dr. Bruce Bostrom

Bruce Bostrom, MD, his sons, John (left) and Arne (right); and Kris Ann Schultz, MD, participate in St. Baldrick's Day in 2013.

In this week’s Five Question Friday, we catch up with Bruce Bostrom, MD, as he talks about his involvement with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and his love for Scandinavian folk dancing.

Children’s is hosting its annual St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event April 24 to raise money for childhood cancer research. Sign up to shave, donate or volunteer on the Children’s event page.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s since 1988. Initially, I was on part-time “loan” from the University of Minnesota to help the cancer and blood disorders program when Dr. Larry Singher was diagnosed with cancer. Drs. Jack Cich and Margaret Heisel-Kurth had previously come to the program from Park Nicollet as well. I became a full-time Children’s employee in 1992.

What are some of the conditions you treat?

In the early days, I treated all blood disorders and cancers in children and young adults. More recently I have specialized in leukemia, lymphoma and respiratory papillomatosis.

What inspired you to get involved with St. Baldrick’s? Tell us about your head-shaving team.

My youngest son, Arne, organized a shaving event for his fraternity at the University of Colorado in 2007. In 2009, my son, John, and I attended the event and shaved with him. We have now moved our team, “The Baldstroms,” aka “The Bald Vikings,” to the event at Children’s. One of my favorite “shaving” memories was in Boulder in 2009 when my sons and I climbed to the top of the Flatirons after shaving. I also like to say that the best thing about having my head shaved – after supporting childhood cancer research, of course – is the money I save on haircuts.

What do you love most about your job?

I work with a fantastic team of people who all are focused on giving the best care to patients with very serious and sometimes-fatal diseases. I also enjoy the long-standing relationships that form with patients and families.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I like to stay active, which is a great stress reliever. My favorite activity is Nordic (cross-country) skiing. I have skied the American Birkebeiner 30 times. My goal is to do the Norwegian version along with the Swedish Vasaloppet someday. My wife, Char, is a very accomplished Scandinavian folk fiddler, and we are members of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish folk-dance groups. As a native Minnesotan, I also enjoy Twins games and going up to the cabin.

Volunteer shout-out: Kiry Koy

Volunteer Kiry Koy plans to become a doctor.

The celebration of our volunteers continues this week with a profile of Kiry Koy.

Kiry is a freshman at the University of Minnesota, studying neuroscience. He volunteers at Children’s – St. Paul on the inpatient units and has gained more than 60 hours of service since he started volunteering in October 2013. This summer, he plans to broaden his skill set by volunteering in a new area: as a peri-operative escort in our surgery department. His favorite part about volunteering is playing with kids in the unit playroom. Plans for the future? Well, to become a doctor, of course.

Thank you, Kiry, and all of our volunteers for all you do to assist staff and brighten the lives of patients and families.