Author Archives: erin.keifenheim

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: 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.

Honoring patient- and family-centered care

If there is a Children’s staff member who has made a difference to your family, nominate him or her for the Excellence in Patient- and Family-Centered Care Award.

When Deb’s daughter was born prematurely at 28 weeks, Kathy Wharton, RN, in Children’s neonatal intensive care unit, was there to comfort her, teach her and laugh with her.

“Kathy was calming, funny and professional,” Deb said. “She was our decoder for this confusing, unplanned madness we got thrown into. I can’t imagine getting through the first few weeks without her kind words, explanations and hugs.”

Deb honored Kathy by nominating her for the Excellence in Patient- and Family-Centered Care Award, which is organized by Children’s Family Advisory Council. The award, which is given out twice a year, gives families an opportunity to recognize and honor care providers who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to patient- and family-centered care.

For Kathy, the award was a touching reminder of why she comes to work every day.

“I have spent over 30 years in nursing and have done it all – from bedside nursing to supervising, from hospital to clinic, NICU to dialysis and back to bedside NICU,” Kathy said. “This award reminded me why I came back to bedside nursing. It renewed my spirit and reminded me that I can make a difference.”

If there is a Children’s staff member who has made a difference to your family, nominate him or her for the Excellence in Patient- and Family-Centered Care Award. Families can nominate any Children’s staff member from whom they have received services in the past 12 months. The next awards will be presented in May and October.

Questions? Please email familyadvisorycouncil@childrensmn.org.

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!

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.

Volunteer shout-out: Jackie Cameron

Jackie Cameron has volunteered for six years and is a Children’s employee who works as a lead medical scribe in Health Information Management.

Happy National Volunteer Recognition Week! Meet Jackie Cameron, a volunteer for six years and a Children’s employee who works as a lead medical scribe in Health Information Management (HIM).

Tell us about your volunteer journey and how it led to a career at Children’s.

I started volunteering at Children’s during my sophomore year in college. This was a memorable time in my life as I was on my own for the first time. Having left a small town in Wisconsin for the Twin Cities, I felt like a little fish in the big ocean. Children’s welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to establish connections and observe medicine in an urban setting for the first time. With all of the opportunities Children’s has provided me, it is extremely rewarding to continue to give back to the place I work through volunteering.

What do you love most about volunteering?

My time spent rocking babies and playing with children reminds me of what is truly important, and what all of our hard work as employees of Children’s is really for. Volunteering has a way of keeping me humble and grounded. It is an incredibly special feeling to be able to make a child forget that they are sick and in the hospital.

Please join us in thanking Jackie and all of our amazing volunteers this week!

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.