Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

“Children’s Pedcast”: Meet the man behind “The Dude”

Eriq Nelson (left) portrays "The Dude" inside Star Studio at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Eriq Nelson (left) portrays “The Dude” inside Star Studio at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Eriq Nelson is an improv actor who plays a vital role at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota as “The Dude,” the face of the hospitals’ in-house TV station, Star Studio. Nelson talks about how he got his start at Children’s in 2007 and how “The Dude” can provide kids with a different kind of medicine through humor, laughter, play and entertainment.

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Team Superstars runner returns to her first home

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Children’s child life specialist Melissa Haun plans to run her first marathon in October as a member of Team Superstars, Children’s new running team.

Brady Gervais

At 33, Melissa Haun is back where she started.

Born just shy of 30 weeks’ gestation at 2 pounds, 6 ounces, she spent her first month at Children’s — in the neonatal intensive care unit. After gaining strength and weight, she moved to the transition nursery at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Melissa Haun as a baby

Melissa Haun as a baby

Today, she is a child life specialist at Children’s, where she focuses on our Comfort Promise. That is, she helps Children’s do everything possible to prevent and treat pain in kids.

“Children’s is where my heart belongs,” Melissa said.

After spending her day educating staff organization-wide about taking the sting out of needle pokes and blood draws — part of the Comfort Promise — she’s training at night for her first-ever marathon on behalf of the cause she loves most.

Melissa in the NICU

Melissa in the NICU

In October, she will go the extra mile by running the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and raising money for Children’s child life and pain and palliative care programs.

“ ‘Running ONE marathon’ is a line straight from my bucket list. I am not getting any younger, and when I saw that Children’s was having its first charity endurance team — Team Superstars — I knew it was meant to be,” Melissa said. “I’ve been told that you get addicted to running marathons, but just in case, I wanted to make sure Children’s got first dibs!”

subscribe_blogAlthough Melissa ran in high school and has been running since, she shares the same fear as every other first-time marathoner — stringing 26.2 miles together.

She’s anxious for the big day, too.

“I am most excited about my goal of getting friends and family to sign up to cheer as (S)MILE-MARKERS, and pass every one of them,” she said. “Don’t underestimate the power of each familiar face!”

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer in the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Five Question Friday: Meet nurse (and video director) Becky Bogan

five_question_friday111In honor of National Nurses Week, we are introducing you to Becky Bogan, RN, who has worked on our Hematology/Oncology unit in Minneapolis for 14 years. In addition to her day job caring for pediatric cancer patients, Becky recently added video director to her résumé. Over the past few weeks, Becky carried a handy cam around her unit, learned how to edit on the fly and, along with nurses, providers and the entire Hematology/Oncology team, created a video set to the tune “Fight Song” as a show of support for kids battling cancer and blood disorders. Get to know more about Becky and what she loves most about being a nurse.

Becky Bogan, RN, has worked at Children's for 14 years.

Becky Bogan, RN, has worked at Children’s for 14 years.

What is your role and where do you work?

I have been a registered nurse on 7th floor (Hematology/Oncology unit) in Minneapolis for 14 years.

Why did you become a nurse?

  • Cliché answer: because I have always loved kids
  • Funny answer: because kid “messes” are smaller than adult “messes”
  • Sentimental answer: because my mom is a nurse and I saw how she always cared for everyone around her. I truly did (and do) want to be just like her.

What do you love most about your job?

So many things!

  1. The kids! I am amazed, daily, at the strength, resilience and fight in these kids. I really believe they are superheroes disguised in “kid” bodies!
  2. My coworkers. They are some of the best. They make coming to work, even on the tough days, possible. There is nothing better than knowing your teammates are there for you.
  3. The work we do. There is nothing more rewarding than making a difference.

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

The kid quotes. Example: The 4-year-old boy who put on his call light at 2 a.m. one night and asked, “Could you please go turn those babies off?”

subscribe_blogWhat’s one thing you want people to know about nursing?

Nursing is a difficult profession… but also one of the most rewarding! As nurses, we have the privilege of being there for the patients and families 24 hours a day. We are there for them in their times of greatest need and also times of greatest joy. Gaining the trust of a patient and family, and making these amazing connections, is one of those unforgettable rewarding moments of a nurse’s job.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Spending time with my husband and two boys (ages 2 and 4). Since my 2-year-old wakes up at 4:30 a.m. EVERY DAY, our days are long and full of excitement. If anyone has any sleep training tips, please help! I definitely will never write a book on that subject.

Longtime Children’s employee goes extra mile for kids

Valerie Butterfield (center) with her dad, Keith (left), and brother, Douglas (Photo courtesy of Valerie Butterfield)

Valerie Butterfield (center) with her dad, Keith (left), and brother, Douglas (Photo courtesy of Valerie Butterfield)

Brady Gervais

Thirty years ago Valerie Butterfield had her first Children’s experience. Her brother, Douglas, who was 7 at the time, was diagnosed with and treated for type 1 diabetes.

This was a scary time for the entire family. Thanks to the progress in juvenile diabetes research and treatment, a diabetes diagnosis is more manageable today.

Knowing what her family went through, Valerie, a longtime Children’s employee in information technology services, has decided to support other patients and families beyond her day job. On Oct. 4, she’ll run her first marathon — the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon — on behalf of Children’s charity running team, Team Superstars.

subscribe_blog“My family thinks it’s pretty awesome,” the mother of two said.

Valerie said she’s excited to raise awareness for a cause in which she believes and is humbled by the financial and emotional support of her friends, family and colleagues. Her dad, Keith, also is a Children’s employee, with more than 20 years of dedicated service. To date, she has raised more than $300.

Valerie always has been active off and on in running and various sports activities. Two years ago, following the birth of her second child, she began running regularly and joined Moms on the Run. She has run many distance races, half-marathons and the Ragnar Relay — an overnight, 200-mile epic relay with 12 of your closest friends (or strangers).

In addition to running her first marathon for a cause, she wants to set an example for her two sons.

“I’m grateful that I have healthy children,” she said, “and I want to show my children an example of healthy living.”

Support your favorite Superstar’s fundraising efforts by giving today.

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer in the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Five Question Friday: Meet Jessica Thon

five_question_friday111In this edition of Five Question Friday, Jessica Thon tells us about the path she has taken from a nurse working in intensive care to a community health nurse involved in home care.

Jessica Thon has been a community health nurse for the past 11 years.

Jessica Thon has been a community health nurse for the past 11 years.

What is your role at Children’s?

I was a registered nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) until my son was born with a medical condition and needed skilled-nurse visits after surgery. At this time I was made aware of a great service that I had no idea Children’s provided; it was a great relief as a mom to find out that I would not have to bring my baby into the clinic three times a week for labs and that a Children’s nurse was coming to our home to do nurse checks, labs and collaborate with our physicians. After my son’s services were no longer needed, I pursued a position and have been a community health nurse for the past 11 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

This year will be 15 years working for Children’s.

What do you love most about your job?

I am privileged to be a part of a fantastic service provided by Children’s. I enjoy extending the hospital experience into our patients’ homes and providing education on their medical needs.

subscribe_blogWhy did you go into nursing?

When I was teenager, I had surgery and was on a pediatric floor. That moment was when I realized I had an interest in nursing. I have a great sense of empathy and desire to help others.

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

I feel every encounter with families is a memory, but most recently I visited one of my patients whom I’ve known since she was 3 years old, from my earlier years working in the PICU. I just recently visited her in her college dorm!

(Bonus question) How do you spend your time outside of work?

I look forward to everything summer! I enjoy spending time with my husband and our two children in our boat.

Meet Sandy Bergeron, director of Volunteer Services

five_question_friday111We continue to celebrate National Volunteer Recognition Week by highlighting Sandy Bergeron, the director of Volunteer Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Sandy Bergeron has worked at Children's for 23 years.

Sandy Bergeron has worked at Children’s for 23 years.

What is your role and title?

My role is director of the Volunteer Services department. We connect volunteers to Children’s mission through rewarding, mutually beneficial and defined opportunities that positively impact the patients, families and staff, while offering supportive and rewarding experiences to volunteers.

How long have you worked at Children’s? 

I have worked at Children’s for 23 years.

What do you love most about your job?

Knowing volunteers really do make a difference at Children’s. Every day, volunteers donate their time and talents, sharing their busy lives, to help the patients and families journey at Children’s. We get to know so many people, with a different team of volunteers each day of the week, all bringing unique backgrounds and stories to their volunteer.

Nurses call regularly to let us know where help is needed, and volunteers rise to the call, willing to go where the need exists. It is humbling being surrounded by so many fabulous people, with such great passion for children, who come each day with a smile to do the best they can, and they do it free!

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

subscribe_blogOh, yes; it’s very vivid, and I tell it a lot! I was taking a new volunteer who was about 23 years old on a tour for his first shift. We got on the elevator, and a nurse was escorting a patient up to his room. The patient was about 12. His eyes lit up when he saw the red vest, he sat up in his wheelchair and said brightly, “Hey, can you come up to my room and play video games? Now?” And then gave his room number and wanted the volunteer to go with him right away. I knew right then and there that the volunteers were an integral part of the Children’s team. It stills makes me smile to this day thinking about that elevator encounter.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love the outdoors. I canoe, kayak, bike, garden, walk my dogs, travel and try my hand at arts and crafts.

“Children’s Pedcast”: Dr. Maurice Sholas on physiatry, rehab services

subscribe_blogDr. Maurice Sholas, senior medical director of rehab services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, discusses how rehabilitation is connected to every aspect of care at Children’s. Dr. Sholas shares his experiences of providing care in New Orleans and Atlanta and his vision for Children’s in its pursuit of helping kids get better from start to finish through personalized, innovative care and treatment.

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Health and wellness are her emphasis

five_question_friday111Alexa Ernst has a passion for health and wellness, which makes her an excellent fit as Children’s Be Well program coordinator. Get to know her in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Alexa Ernst is Children's Be Well program coordinator.

Alexa Ernst is Children’s Be Well program coordinator.

What is your role and title?

I am Children’s Be Well program coordinator. The Be Well program is devoted to bringing you a culture with an emphasis on health and wellness. Your wellness matters to Children’s, and it matters to me. I am committed and eager to provide you with a healthy work environment!

How long have you worked in employee wellness?

I have been working in employee wellness for more than three years. I began working in employee wellness after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2011 when I completed an internship supervising the Wellness Center at Boston Scientific in Arden Hills. I then worked with HealthFitness Corporation, initiating health and fitness initiatives at two multitenant buildings in Bloomington. Just recently, I had the experience to be the Health and Fitness Program Manager for GE Capital Fleet Services, where I developed wellness initiatives and administered and evaluated health and wellness programs.

What excites you most about this new role?

Everything! I am so excited to be a part of such a wonderful organization and to be a part of something that will truly make a difference in the lives of Children’s employees. I am thrilled to engage with you as we begin to build on programs, challenges and seminars, giving you the tools that you need for your personal health and wellness.

subscribe_blogWhy did you go into wellness?

The importance of health has been a part of my entire life, and I hope that I can inspire the employees at Children’s to do the same! I was a gymnast for 14 years and truly feel that it instilled a life of health and well-being in me from a young age. I have three years of corporate wellness experience and had the opportunity to help others make lifestyle changes to improve their overall health. A person’s health is an individualized experience, each having his or her own unique story and journey; I am so excited to be a part of Children’s journey!

What experience has been most rewarding to you in your career so far?

I feel that there are rewarding opportunities every day in this career. It is so inspiring to see the impact you can make on somebody’s life each and every day. All of my experiences have led me to be here today at Children’s, and I feel that taking on this role as the Be Well program coordinator is the most rewarding experience that I could have landed. It truly is a dream job, and I couldn’t imagine a better organization with which to work. I feel grateful for the opportunity to be able to strive while working with Children’s employees as the Be Well Program continues to grow.

(Bonus question) How do you spend your time outside of work?

I enjoy spending my time being as active as possible but also love my down time reading, watching movies and eating chocolate. My favorite activities include yoga, being a part of the Twin Cities River Rats water ski show team; snowboarding, personal training, group fitness instruction, and gymnastics. You also can find me rooting on all Wisconsin sports teams!

Five Question Friday: Meet Kirsten Granberg

five_question_friday111As Child Life Week nears a close, we want to introduce you to Kirsten Granberg, one of our child life specialists, in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Child life specialist Kirsten Granberg has worked at Children's for two years.

Child life specialist Kirsten Granberg has worked at Children’s for two years.

What is your job at Children’s? Describe your role.

I am a child life specialist that works in Sedation and Procedural Services (SPS) at Children’s – Minneapolis. My role in this department is to provide developmentally appropriate education and procedural support to patients needing some type of sedation (or no sedation, if applicable), and hopefully help minimize their stress and increase their understanding of their medical experience. I work directly with the patient and family to find out how I can best offer support for his or her procedure, whether it be with the use of distraction (iSpy or sound books, iPad, guided imagery, bubbles, etc.) or parental coaching. The staff and I work closely to determine how we can all support the child and family in the best possible way as one cohesive team, and hopefully have the patient’s and family’s experience be a positive one.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have been at Children’s for two years. When I was hired, I worked as casual staff and at a contracted emergency department in Plymouth. I began working in SPS in fall 2014 when the Child Life position was created.

What do you love most about your job?

There are many aspects that I love about my job, but the one that always makes my heart happy is when I have the chance to do medical play with a patient before a procedure or scan. I love having a variety of medical items all over the floor where the child has the time to explore and manipulate the materials, ask questions and hopefully make sense of what is going to happen. Play is the universal language for children, so by incorporating something they are familiar with and tying in the medical aspect, children begin to gain mastery and a sense of control over the situation. How empowering for the child!

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

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher, nurse or veterinarian. All my dolls and stuffed animals had many visits to the “hospital,” where I would treat them and nurse them back to health. We went through lots of Band-Aids in my house. One of my favorite gifts was getting a cast and crutches for my doll!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I probably shouldn’t admit that I watch way too much Netflix, so besides that, I love activities outdoors, singing in my car, finding new restaurants, attending different sports events and cheering for my beloved Green Bay Packers!

Five Question Friday: Psychologist works to help children, families

five_question_friday111Don Brunnquell, LP, has a number of stories and memories from his time at Children’s. We’d like you to get to know the Children’s mainstay in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Don Brunnquell, LP, has worked at Children's for 35 years.

Don Brunnquell, LP, has worked at Children’s for 35 years.

What is your title? Describe your role.

My formal title is resident ethicist and director of the office of ethics. I am a psychologist with additional training in ethics. This means I am the first responder and coordinate the work of the ethics committee in bioethics education, policy and consultation. On a day-to-day basis, that means things like talking with family and staff about complex decisions for a patient such as choosing an invasive surgery for a child with a life-threatening disease, and working on education such as grand rounds or unit in-services around moral dilemmas and distress, and working on policies that clarify how we deal with complex values issues such as “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation.”

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I’ve worked at Children’s for 35 years, although I was a psychology intern for one year prior to becoming an employee. I started at Children’s – Minneapolis when there were about 450 employees. I continue to work here because I work with a lot of wonderful and dedicated people.

subscribe_blogWhat do you love most about your job?

I love being with children and their families, and working to help them have as good a life as they can. Helping people sort through, make sense of and make peace with decisions that are intellectually and emotionally tough is very rewarding. No two days are the same.

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

There are so many! One of my favorites was receiving a letter from a parent whose child had died, who had struggled with decision-making, and at times was very suspicious and angry; she thanked us for how we had stood by her and helped her face something that is unimaginable for a parent. Another happened recently when a new employee approached me and said that I had worked with her family about 20 years ago when her sister was ill, and the good experience here in a terrible time helped guide her choice to work in health care.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Balance is important. It used to be with my kids, but now that they are grown it’s music (I play every week with two friends in an acoustic folk band called Stealin’ Home), writing poetry, fantasy baseball (in the same league for more than 20 years), and cycling or cross-country skiing. Also, I am a huge Gopher basketball and Twins fan.