Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

Meet Red-Vested Rockstar Debbie Closmore

Debbie Closmore is a St. Paul volunteer with nearly 200 hours of service.

Debbie Closmore is a St. Paul volunteer with nearly 200 hours of service.

Children’s volunteer Debbie Closmore truly lights up a room with her laughter and positive energy. She isn’t afraid of a challenge and loves stepping up to the ever-changing needs in the surgery department.

Why she rocks

Debbie is a volunteer on the St. Paul campus; she was a float volunteer and currently serves as a peri-operative escort in our surgery department. She’s energetic and fun. Debbie serves as a trainer for new volunteers, passing on her knowledge and expertise. See why she got into volunteering at Children’s:

“I got into volunteering with hopes to ease the anxiety for children and their families during a stressful time,” Debbie said. “Spread a little joy!”

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of volunteering?

“I love spending time with my husband, family and friends. I also enjoy biking, hiking, yoga and walking, staying active.”

Do you have any kids or pets of your own?

“I have a stepson, daughter-in-law and five grandchildren.”

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it?

“My candy bar would be made with raw pecans, dates, figs, sunflower seeds and dark chocolate. I would name it ‘Healthy Me.’ ”

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story.

“I spent many hours rocking and holding an infant boy. Every week I went to his unit to rock and talk with him; we really had a connection. When he smiled at me, my heart sang.”

Thank you, Debbie, for your bright, positive energy and true commitment to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota!

Five Question Friday: Janay Moore

Senior talent acquisition assistant Janay Moore has been with Children's since February 2012.

Senior talent acquisition assistant Janay Moore has been with Children’s since February 2012.

Janay Moore, senior talent acquisition assistant, has a job she loves – helping others find jobs they love at Children’s! Get to know Janay in this week’s Five Question Friday.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I started working at Children’s as a contractor in August of 2011 but I applied for a regular position and was hired in February 2012. Therefore, I just celebrated my two-year anniversary in February.

Describe your role.

I’m a senior talent acquisition assistant. My primary responsibilities include: recruitment for the clinical support associate positions, the MNA internal bidding process, pre-boarding our RN travelers, and supporting our new grad training program and external nursing recruitment.

What’s your favorite memory from working at Children’s?

My favorite memory working at Children’s is an ongoing one. As a part of the Talent Acquisition Team we are involved in a number of student internships in the community. It’s a blast to see the growth of our student interns from Cristo Rey, Project Search and the Step-Up program mature into young working professionals. Just another reminder of why we do the things we do.

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

Funny enough when I was a kid I always thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. As I matured, I realized that I loved the idea of working with animals but couldn’t live with the idea of working with ailing or dying ones. It’s important to know your strengths and weakness and emotionally it was too much for me.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love spending time with my husband and our two daughters, Aarylin, age 6, and Milaya, age 3. We really enjoy going to the park, shopping and traveling!

Five Question Friday: Mary Sachs

In honor of Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Week, this edition of Five Question Friday is about Mary Sachs, RN, CNP, who works with cystic fibrosis patients at Children’s. 

Mary Sachs, RN, CNP, has worked at Children's for about 22 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s for about 22 years. I started out in the pulmonary clinic as a nurse practitioner, and I continue to work in the pulmonary field doing asthma clinics in St. Paul and coordinating the cystic fibrosis program on the Minneapolis campus. I also work 2½ days per week in the general pediatric clinic. I enjoy the variety in my job and the ability to be on both sides of the river.

How has cystic fibrosis care changed over the years? Or what advances have you seen in the way we care for pediatric cystic fibrosis patients?

One of the biggest changes that happened eight years ago was the addition of testing for cystic fibrosis on the newborn screen. Whereas before, we would diagnose most children after they had issues with frequent pneumonias or infections or were failing to thrive, we now can diagnose them shortly after birth and begin preventative medications and strategies to optimize growth and maintain lung function. We used to also hospitalize children with CF at diagnosis because they were so sick. Now we usually don’t have to hospitalize children until they are older and we provide most of our education and treatments as outpatients.

What’s one thing you want people to know about cystic fibrosis?

The main thing I would like for people to know is that there is great hope that one day we truly will find a cure. The research happening around this orphan disease is truly amazing, and Children’s is a part of this research, enrolling subjects in many observational and clinical trials. New drugs studies are actually making corrective changes at the cellular level which is very exciting.  

Parents also need to know that if their child is diagnosed with CF that they are not alone. There is a team of people at Children’s who are going to be there with them every step of the way.

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

There are some many wonderful memories of caring for children and their families here, but one memory reminds me that when you work here at Children’s – you have to be ready for anything and truly at the top of your game. I walked into one of our patients with CF’s room on the sixth floor one day and he was watching the “Wishing Well Show” (the previous in-house studio show). Porky-Chop (the pig puppet) was having a hog-calling contest for patients and staff. Sam (my patient) insisted that we enter the contest (and how could I say no?). We did our best and then I was off to see the rest of the patients with CF on the unit. The next day when I came onto the floor, he came running out of his room yelling “Mary, Mary! We won! We won!” He was just SO excited. He is a teenager now, and when he comes to Children’s for his annual clinic visit with the team once a year, we still laugh about it.

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

I would go to Italy because of the wonderful culture, food and wine.

Five Question Friday: Bonnie Carlson-Green

Working as a neuropsychologist is a bit like being a detective for Bonnie Carlson-Green, PhD, LP. Learn more about her fascination with the brain in this week’s Five Question Friday.

When she was in high school, Bonnie Carlson-Green, PhD, LP, wanted to be a pediatrician but decided to major in psychology in college because she was fascinated with the study of brains and behavior.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I’ve been at Children’s for 17 years – one year less than my eldest child’s age, which makes it easy to remember!

Describe your role.

I was hired to develop the neuropsychology program, specifically as it relates to supporting the hematology/oncology patients. Many children who have central nervous system (CNS) cancers or are treated with brain surgery, craniospinal radiation, or intrathecal chemotherapies can develop neurocognitive late effects – problems with attention, processing speed, memory or other difficulties that affect their development and learning capacity. We now have six neuropsychologists across both Children’s hospital campuses and see children from age 2 years to young adults into their 20s, and sometimes 30s, for neurocognitive issues related to a variety of diagnoses and conditions.

How did you decide to go into pediatrics?

In high school, I wanted to be a pediatrician but decided to major in psychology in college because I was fascinated with the study of brains and behavior (there were no neuroscience or neuropsychology programs back in those dark ages). My psychology classes were a lot more interesting than the cutthroat pre-med classes so I gave up plans for med school. Now I feel like I get the best of both worlds: I work in a hospital setting with kids but get to spend a lot more time getting to know them over the course of their assessment.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the challenge of a mystery. Families come to me with questions about why their child is struggling. I listen to their stories for clues, do my own bit of detective work through my assessment, and then present my hypotheses to the families. It’s so gratifying for parents to have an “aha” moment in your office when all of a sudden they have a better understanding of their child. It’s also wonderful to be able to follow children over time and to see them learn to read or to do better in school because of recommendations or strategies that you suggested.

What’s your favorite meal?

My absolute favorite food in the world is Tom Yum soup. It’s a Thai soup that is a little sweet, a little sour and served with rice. Every bite tastes a little bit different than the last. There is nothing better, and it cures every ill. Unfortunately, the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Dinkytown that made the best Tom Yum soup in the Cities closed a number of years ago, so my husband and I were forced to learn how to make it ourselves.

Five Question Friday: Tami Koth and Morgan Koth

In honor of Nurses Week and Mother’s Day, we’re bringing you a double feature Five Question Friday. Meet Tami Koth, RN and assistant nurse manager on the seventh floor in Minneapolis, and her daughter, Morgan Koth, who works in the Children’s Foundation.

Tami Koth, RN, and daughter Morgan are Children's employees.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

Tami: I’ve worked here for 28 years.

Morgan: I have worked at Children’s for one year. Before my time in the Foundation, I worked as an intern in Genetics during my senior year of college and logged countless hours as a Children’s volunteer starting in 2002.

Describe your role at Children’s.

Tami: I am a nurse and assistant nurse manager on seventh floor, where we see both medical/surgical patients as well as hematology/oncology patients.

Morgan: As a corporate development associate for the foundation, my job is to help our corporate donors engage their organizations, employees and customers to support the patients and families of Children’s. When people band together, they can do amazing things and I love seeing that magic happen with our corporate groups.

Tami, why did you decide to go into nursing?

I was hospitalized a few times as a child. My last hospitalizations actually took place at Children’s in Minneapolis. I saw what the staff was able to provide to sick children and thought if I ever became a nurse I wanted to end up back here! My mother was a nurse and this directly influenced my decision to go into nursing.

Morgan, did your mom’s career influence your decision to work at Children’s? Absolutely. When I was in elementary school, she brought me to Children’s for “Take Your Child to Work Day” where I got to experience some of Children’s magic. Starting in the summer I was 13, I came in every Tuesday to volunteer at the hospital while my mom worked her shift. She inspired me with how thoughtful she was with patient families and the kids. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what my role would be at Children’s, but I knew early on that I wanted to be like my mom.

What do you love most about your job?

Tami: The greatest part of my job is in my role as assistant nurse manager. I gain leadership opportunities and also have my days providing patient care to our medical/surgical and hematology/oncology population; it is a great balance. Actually, one of my new favorite parts of my job is getting to have lunch with my daughter!

Morgan: My favorite moments are in the rare opportunities I get to meet with patient families at corporate events. Seeing the joy of the kids and their parents who are able to have fun and simply be a family makes this the best job in the world, hands down.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Tami: I enjoy spending time with my husband and friends; one of our favorite summertime activities is attending outdoor concerts at the Minnesota Zoo.

Morgan: I love to stay active. You can often find me running around Minneapolis training for a few races this year. I also love to cook and try new foods, plan the next trip and enjoy the simple things with my friends and family.

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.