Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

Volunteer shout-out: Eric Gustafson

Eric Gustafson has been volunteering at Children’s for almost five years.

As part of National Volunteer Recognition Week, we’re profiling some of our Red-Vested Rockstars! Today, meet Eric Gustafson, who has been volunteering at Children’s for almost five years. He’s a laid-back guy with a great sense of humor. Eric often trains-in new volunteers, and serves as our orientation assistant at new-volunteer orientations. Learn more about Eric and why he gives his time to Children’s.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?

It has all been good; the staff and other volunteers have been exceptional. But if I had to boil it down, I would say being with the kids and hopefully helping.

What is a standout memory you have from your volunteer time?

I do remember an incident in the NICU where a nurse asked if I could hold a little boy so she could go to lunch. I was handed the kid and he immediately fell asleep. When the nurse came back she took him, and as I took just a couple of steps he began to cry, so I headed back. The nurse put him in my arms, and again, he fell asleep right away. We thought we were in the clear, so the nurse took over, and I headed out. Again, and after a few steps, he began to cry again! This repeated itself one more time before I ended my shift and had to let him stay with the nurse, still crying.

What advice would you give to a new volunteer?

Pay attention while you are training, use common sense and get comfortable going into rooms without being asked to. What I tell all the people I have trained is that this is not rocket science, but we cover a lot of material and, like many new scenarios, the first time you are on your own and are asked to do things on your own can cause some distress.

Besides volunteering, what is something you love to do?

Travel, spend time with my wife, hunt, drive.

Thank you, Eric, and all of our volunteers for all you do!

Five Question Friday: Dex Tuttle

We love kids here at Children’s, but we’d rather see them safe at home. Dex Tuttle, our injury prevention program coordinator, tells us more about his role and gives some tips on how to prevent common household injuries in this week’s Five Question Friday.

Dex Tuttle has been the injury prevention program coordinator at Children's since August 2013.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I started in August of 2013.

Describe your role.

As injury prevention program coordinator, my job is to keep kids out of the emergency room. I plan events and prepare resources in partnership with hospital and community organizations to educate children and families about common types of injury and give them tips on what they can do to stay safe.

What do you love most about your job?

On any given day, I can be in a workshop creating a new display or activity, out in the metro area talking to community members, or at my desk planning, creating and organizing for the future. I love the flexibility and unpredictability of the job, but the most rewarding part of my work is when people who stop by and chat with me have that “a-ha” moment: when I know that the message sunk in and changed behavior. In addition, as a father of an 18-month-old, injury prevention is always on my mind in a very real way. It is great making connections with families where the conversation starts with the commonality of caring for a curious and mobile child and progresses to sharing some advice that can help them keep their own kids safe.

We’re anxiously waiting for warmer weather so we can get outside. What are some simple tips that you give parents to keep their kids safe around their neighborhoods?

A tricky part of parenting is encouraging your kids to learn through exploration and curiosity while maintaining safe behaviors. The tip sheet on this topic is about three miles long, but here is some general advice:

  • If they’re on wheels, make sure they wear a proper-fitting helmet and pads.
  • The same goes for any activity or sport; make sure their equipment is right for their size.
  • Role-play emergency scenarios as a family – severe weather, stranger danger, fire escape, etc.
  • When traveling by vehicle, ensure your child’s car seat or seat belt fits right and is installed/worn properly. ALWAYS wear a seat belt (role model good behavior) and keep kids in a proper car seat or booster until they’re 4-foot-9 or taller to ensure their seat belt fits right.
  • STAY HYDRATED. With the winter we’ve had, it’s hard to think about the weather being warm enough to be dangerous, but developing good habits around drinking plenty of water now will help create safe behavior in the future. Be sure kids understand the importance of sunscreen, too.

For more tips, visit Children’s Making Safe Simple page, but the best advice I can give as a father and educator is to involve your kids in decisions and planning for safety. Encouraging them to provide their input and incorporating their suggestions into your plan and actions helps solidify safe behavior into the future.

What’s your favorite meal?

PIZZA. If my wife would let me, I could eat pizza for every meal, every day … with a few regular breaks for hot wings, anyway.

Healing through play: Meet Sam Schackman

Sam Schackman is a child life specialist in the Cancer and Blood Disorders clinic.

We end March, which included Child Life Week, by getting to know Sam Schackman, a child life specialist.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

This will be my third year at Children’s. I started in 2011.

What do you love most about your job?

The kids, of course! But that’s an easy answer, so I would say one thing I love most is working alongside children and their families and being able to see them overcome challenges.

What is one thing you’d like people to know about your profession?

Child life specialists have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in a major that focuses on child development, child psychology and working with families. Child life specialists must complete a supervised clinical internship and pass a national certification exam.

What is a typical day like for you?

I work in the Cancer and Blood Disorders clinic, and each day is different! My day may consist of providing preparation for medical procedures, helping to facilitate coping during invasion procedures and pokes, facilitating therapeutic and normative activities, providing developmentally appropriate education about a child’s body or illness, and providing support for siblings and other family members. Each day looks different, but each day I know I get to spend with amazing kids and their families.

The theme of Child Life Week is “everyone plays in the same language.” What was your favorite childhood toy?

I loved dolls and stuffed animals. One of my most favorites was a Minnie Mouse doll that had a light-up bow.

Five Question Friday: Joanna Davis

It’s Child Life Week at Children’s, so we’re dedicating this week’s Five Question Friday to learning more about Joanna Davis, a child life specialist and the coordinator of the new Child Life Zone at our St. Paul campus.

Joanna Davis is a child life specialist and the coordinator of the new Child Life Zone at our St. Paul campus.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked here since July 2013. Before I came to Children’s, I worked at a children’s hospital in Alaska.

Why did you decide to become a child life specialist?

I knew I wanted to work with kids, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At the time I had never heard of the child life profession. While I was in college, my sister was doing her nursing clinicals and she followed a child life specialist around for a day. She called me up immediately after to tell me she found the perfect job for me. I looked up all I could about child life. Ever since then, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I did everything I could to get my certification in child life, and I give all the credit to my sister, for finding me my perfect job!

We recently opened the new Child Life Zone in St. Paul. Can you tell us more about the new space?

The Child Life Zone is a state-of-the-art, therapeutic play area, located on the St. Paul campus. It’s a place that patients, siblings and families can play, hang out, have fun and just relax. Inside we have a therapeutic craft and play area, media wall and gaming area, Children’s library, Star Studio performance space and kitchen area for special events. We also offer sibling play services for kids whose brother or sister is in the hospital.

What do you love most about your job?

Working with kids and their families, and helping make their experience here at Children’s even more positive. The Child Life Zone draws kids from all over the hospital ­– we have outpatient kids that come weekly after their therapy appointments, infusion kids that come up and play from the short-stay unit while getting their meds, and inpatient kids that come down daily if they are able to. It’s really nice getting to see these kids come to a space in the hospital where they feel safe, and they really open up to you.

The theme for Child Life Week is “everyone plays in the same language.” What was your favorite childhood toy?

I loved my Easy Bake Oven! I played with it all the time until I got old enough that I started baking in the kitchen. Baking cookies is one of my favorite things to do.

An advocate for kids: Meet child life specialist Judy Sawyer

It’s Child Life Week, and we’re excited to bring you some profiles about our team at Children’s. For Judy Sawyer, no two days at work are ever the same, and she wouldn’t have it any other way! Learn more about Judy and her role at Children’s.

Judy Sawyer has been a child life specialist at Children's for 23 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I started in November of 1990 … 23 years.

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about your profession?

The most important role for me is to be an advocate, providing consistent support for patients and families during their admission. Whether it is being the “non-medical person” providing support/distraction during a lab draw, education to provide a better understanding of the medical experience, or bringing a child a developmentally appropriate activity, my goal is to help the child have as positive an experience as possible while they are at Children’s.

What is a typical day like for you?

One of the things I love about working in child life is that no two days are ever the same!

A typical day begins by obtaining a census, reviewing it for new admissions on the two critical care units I work on, CVCC and PICU, check to see if there are any cardiac pre-op appointments for patients scheduled for heart surgery the next day and attend patient review where information is shared and updated between the charge nurse and the multidisciplinary staff.

I provide followup support for patients already on these units. If a child is scheduled for heart surgery, I work with the CV Par 4 staff to provide preparation information using photos and a walk through of the CVCC Unit so they have an understanding of what to expect the day of surgery. Child Life Specialists use the senses as a guide… what will they “see, hear, feel, smell and taste”? By preparing the patient and family to know what to expect, my goal is to have them leave the hospital feeling confident to return the next day for surgery. I work closely with multidisciplinary staff on the critical care units to support our families during what is often a very stressful time.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would love to travel to Paris! I love art, history, wine and French food so it feels like a perfect destination spot!

Child life specialist helps patients conquer fears

Happy Child Life Week! Meet Betsy Brand, a child life specialist who has worked at Children’s for 26 years, across four different locations.

Betsy Brand, a Child Life at Children's, demonstrates an MRI to a young patient in St. Paul.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Every day is different, which is what I love about the job. I work in Sedation and Procedural Services (SPS) at Children’s — St. Paul, helping prepare and support patients for sedated and unsedated MRIs, CTs, voiding cystourethrograms (VCUGs), nitrous procedures and IV starts. On the Short Stay Unit side of SPS, I check in with families after surgery to help find developmentally supportive activities for patients and prepare patients for tests and procedures.

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about Child Life?

We all have at least a four-year degree, and many of us have master’s degrees in child development-related fields.

What do you love most about your job?

Being a part of a positive medical experience, witnessing patients conquering their fears and mastering their health care challenges.

What do you think makes kids great?

Their honesty and how their play reveals their needs and the developmental needs they are working on.

The theme for Child Life Week is “everyone plays in the same language.” What was your favorite childhood toy?

My dolls, Barbies and stuffed animals.

Five Question Friday: Karen Jensen

March is Social Work Month, and today we’re highlighting Karen Jensen, MSW, LICSW, clinical social worker in Children’s cancer and blood disorders department.

Karen Jensen, MSW, LICSW, is a clinical social worker in Children’s cancer and blood disorders department.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

Almost two years.

Describe your role.

I work with children with brain tumors and their families. My role is to support families throughout their journey from diagnosis, through treatment and in survivorship. I help families plan their “new lives” around a child with a significant medical issue — from school to work, to day-to-day life.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the families that I work with. It is so rewarding to be able to assist families through one of the most difficult times in their lives — through the ups and downs, through the tears and joys. It is amazing to see how the children and families that I work with change throughout this journey. I feel so privileged to be able to be a part of their lives.

What is one thing you’d like people to know about social work?

The group of social workers at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is the most professional, ethical and competent group of social workers that I have ever worked with, and I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing team!

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to spend time with family and travel, and I enjoy photography, hiking, biking and volunteering. I have a special love for Guatemala, and I support several children there.

 

 

A childhood goal turned into reality

In recognition of Social Work Month, we’re sharing profiles of some of our social workers and highlighting the important work they do for our patients and families. Today, meet Cathy Schacher, on-call social worker, who found her calling early in life and never looked back.

Cathy Schacher has wanted to be a social worker since she was 10.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

Since December 2009.

Why did you decide to go into social work?

When I was 10 years old and attended a week of church camp in central Iowa, I met a boy from Des Moines who told me about being “ripped” from his home by a foster care social worker. I told him that I would grow up to be the best social worker ever – even though I’d never heard of that type of job before in my small-town-America world!

What’s one thing you’d like others to know about your profession?

That we’re not all a bunch of bleeding hearts out to save the world. As a part of any team that we work within, we are able to provide a bigger-picture perspective that can help organize the information, prioritize the needs, provide insight into the rest of the story that might not come out during a 20-minute office visit, and assist with patients and clients following-through on the directions or taking other action steps that they might not otherwise be able to take without our support.

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

I was able to serve during the most beautiful death experience, in which the family was at peace and was able to receive countless visits from well-known hospital staff who had walked with them through a long journey of chronic illness and hospitalizations.  When the room was packed with staff, family and friends, the song “I Can Only Imagine” came on the radio, and the patient’s mother asked everyone to stop talking while she sang that song into her child’s ear. Not a dry eye in the room! That experience taught me that I’m not “just” an on-call social worker, coming in as a total stranger, and that I was able to help the family and staff in just the right way that they needed that day.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A social worker, since I was 10!

Five Question Friday: Danielle Horgen

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and to recognize it, we chose to highlight Danielle Horgen, PA-C, of Neurosurgery at Children’s. She took some time to talk about her work with patients and life outside of Children’s.

Danielle Horgen, PA-C, has been in Neurosurgery at Children's since October 2013.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I started working in Neurosurgery in October 2013.  I love working with children and their families and am so happy to be a part of the care provided at Children’s Hospital.

Describe your role.

I am a physician assistant in the Neurosurgery department. We have a great team consisting of three neurosurgeons, three nurse practitioners and one physician assistant. We all work together to make sure our patients receive quality care. My role is to interview and examine patients, order and interpret images, prescribe medications and provide education to patients and their families in both clinic and inpatient settings. I get to see many of these children in consultation, first-assist in their surgeries and manage their care during the hospital stay and follow-up visits. It is very rewarding to be present throughout the entire process!

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

It’s difficult to pick a favorite memory. We see some pretty amazing kids, all with unique stories and experiences, and certainly their own little personalities that are so fun to work with! I’ve been told some great jokes, participated in dance parties with nurses and patients on the floor and received some motivational speeches from some pretty inspiring kids. I once got a lesson from a little boy with a brain tumor about being happy and staying positive. Although this field has its share of difficult times, I feel that it’s an honor to be able to guide a family through these moments.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I have been married to my husband, Darin, for eight years, and we have a chocolate Lab named Casey. I love spending my time with these two! We also have great families in Iowa and Minnesota, including 10 nieces and nephews that we love dearly and see as often as we can.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

I played tennis, softball, gymnastics and volleyball growing up. During my senior year of high school, my tennis team won the state championship in Iowa. (It probably didn’t hurt that the two top ranked players in the state played on my team, too). Despite this, my husband, who never played tennis, still can beat me almost every time.

Five Question Friday: Bobbie Carroll

Patient safety is our top priority at Children’s. In recognition of National Patient Safety Awareness Week, Bobbie Carroll, RN, MHA, and our senior director of patient safety and clinical informatics, shares how we’re working to maintain the highest standards of safety and quality for our patients and their families. 

Bobbie Carroll, RN, MHA, is senior director of patient safety and clinical informatics at Children's.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked for Children’s 12 years.

Describe your role.

I am a registered nurse, and during my clinical career I worked in general pediatrics in the hospital and clinic settings. My interest and career moved into informatics when working on a project to help translate medical terminology for computer programmers when they were starting to develop electronic medical records. In time I started working as a project manager with a consulting firm, working on a variety of projects, which introduced me to Children’s. I started here working on a project converting our organization’s electronic systems onto our electronic medical record. During this project and after, Children’s recognized the value of informatics to assure we look at the clinical workflow and partner with staff as we develop, design and introduce technology at the bedside. Patient-safety opportunities are at the forefront of our efforts. Using technology wisely can help our organization in our pursuit of zero patient harm. I am fortunate to have the opportunity in leading our organization’s informatics team as well as patient-safety efforts.

It’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week. What kind of things does Children’s do to make sure we are providing a safe environment for our patients?

We partner with our employees to support a culture of safety at Children’s and reduce patient harm. Some of the ways we do this is learning about our stories and events reported by our employees through our safety learning reporting (SLR) process. Our Quality and Safety team reviews every SLR that is submitted and look for system gaps and opportunities that we can address to reduce the potential for error. This is a very powerful tool in assuring we have a pulse on the care we provide our patients.

Children’s was the first pediatric hospital in the U.S. to use a closed-loop medication-administration system using two-way communication between infusion pumps and the electronic medical record. The system has helped us avert potential medical errors and has advanced patient safety throughout the hospital.

Across Children’s, we also focus our attention on hospital-acquired conditions such as adverse drug events, hospital-acquired infections, pressure ulcers, patient falls and other preventable harm events. We also work with staff on the creative ideas they have to prevent harm in their care areas.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I really wanted to be an airline “stewardess” back in the day! Now they are referred to as airline attendants and, while I respect their work, the position doesn’t seem near as glamorous as it did when I was a little girl.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I am pretty low-key outside of work and love spending time at home. I am somewhat of a “foodie,” so I like trying new recipes out on friends and family. I also like to plan our various vacation locations to experience new places. I have three beautiful granddaughters that I enjoy spending time with who constantly remind me about the important things in life.