Category Archives: Staff Profiles and News

Five Question Friday: Karen Johnson

Meet Karen Johnson, a nurse practitioner in our Sleep Center.

How long have you worked at Children’s? I started as a nurse in the infant apnea program/pediatric sleep program in 2006. In 2008, I decided to go back to school and become a nurse practitioner (NP). I am so glad I did because now I am working in the Children’s Sleep Center as a nurse practitioner! Feeling happy!

Describe your role. I am the pediatric nurse practitioner in the Children’s Sleep Center. I work full-time, meeting with parents about their child’s sleep issues such as insomnia, snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, night terrors and other sleep problems. I am also trained in biofeedback, which is used to help treat children relax who have insomnia. I teach them special skills such as diaphragmatic breathing, and guided imagery to assist them in relaxing so they can fall asleep. We use a special computer program that the kids find really fun and gives them feedback how they are doing learning the techniques.

What do you love most about your job? Biofeedback is a really fun part of the day for me because when children become mindful of how to calm themselves, they see the value in the skills they have learned, and then they are in charge of their sleep. As an NP, I enjoy helping parents create a sleep plan that will fit the needs of the child and the family. I enjoy educating the family. It’s important to educate the family, because being informed parents will increase their understanding and ability to make changes that improve the child and the parents’ quality and quantity of sleep. When the entire family sleeps well, we have a happier family that can enjoy each other and a healthier family overall.

How do you spend your time outside of work? I like to be with family and friends, float on my pontoon on a lazy summer day, ride bike, and sing when no one is around. Being outdoors brings me my peace and calm so that I can recharge. I would like to learn how to line dance, play the guitar and volunteer in my community. But on Monday mornings I become a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Children’s Sleep Center, and I LOVE it!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? I would like to go back to Hawaii someday, but anywhere that is warm is where I want to be on vacation.

Five Question Friday: Jeanine Schweiss

Jeanine Schweiss

This week, we introduce you to Jeanine Schweiss, a speech-language pathologist at Children’s!

How long have you worked at Children’s? Almost eleven years.

You’re a speech-language pathologist. What’s a typical day like for you? Every day is very different. Throughout the week, I work with outpatients and inpatients with feeding difficulties, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and/or speech/language delays. I also perform video swallow studies and I work with a multi-disciplinary team in our Feeding Clinic. My role as a speech-language pathologist at Children’s is very dynamic and every day brings a new learning experience.

What do you love most about your job? Being able to consistently witness a child perform a new skill and seeing the amazing impact it has on his/her life, whether it be saying/signing a new word, eating a new food item or being able to be given a bottle from a parent for the first time. Observing parents’ reactions while the children perform new skills is equally incredible and very rewarding.

How do you spend your time outside of work? I enjoy hiking, camping, and doing a lot of other outdoor activities with my husband and two young children. We also spend time traveling and visiting our family cabin whenever we have a chance.

What’s one fun fact about you? I lived in a castle in England for four months while studying abroad in college.


Children’s Youth Advisory Council celebrates 10 years

They conceive new, innovative music carts, design teen lounges and visit the state Legislature to advocate on behalf of other kids in Minnesota.

They’re the Youth Advisory Council and for the 10th year running, this group of patients and patient siblings have dedicated their time to making Children’s a better place.

“Children’s is very fortunate to have one of the first, and I think one of the best, Youth Advisory Council’s in the country. Our YAC members take their job very seriously, and work hard to make the hospital experience better for all children,” said Alan L. Goldbloom, MD, CEO of Children’s. “I think the ideas and suggestions that have come from our YAC have made us a better children’s hospital, and I appreciate all of their work.”

The mission of YAC is three-fold: to help Children’s staff, leaders, doctors and parents understand what is important during hospital stays, clinic visits and emergency care; discuss and give feedback on issues that are important to kids and teens having to do with their health care; and develop a group that has a voice and active participation in thinking about health care services for pediatric and young adult patients.

“They really want to bring Children’s from good to great,” said Christi Dady, a child life specialist and one of the group facilitators.

There are currently 17 members on the council, and they meet on the second Saturday of each month during the school year. There are approximately 20 councils like this one at pediatric hospitals throughout the country, said Sheila Palm, who oversees child life and YAC at Children’s.

“Being in YAC helps members learn about health care delivery and services and gain a new perspective on taking responsibility for their health,” Palm said. “We encourage them to let their voice be heard and advocate for themselves and others.”

Members are encouraged to articulate their thoughts and be active, thoughtful and respectful listener to others ideas.

“Even though most of these kids have some sort of chronic condition, they are very active in their community. A lot of them are student athletes. They all have busy lives, but they still give to Children’s,” Palm said. “I think for the most part they’re altruistic, and they want to help other children. They really are looking at it as service to others.”

Five Question Friday: Jennifer Lissick

Jenniefer Lissick - Five Question Friday

Jenniefer Lissick

Meet Jennifer Lissick, a member of our pharmacy team!

How long have you worked at Children’s?  I started at Children’s in 2010 as a pharmacy resident and then was hired on as a staff pharmacist in 2011.

Describe your work at Children’s. I recently started a new position as the pharmacist for the Hemophilia Treatment Center.  My role is still evolving but in general I monitor and manage treatment for patients with bleeding or clotting disorders as part of the multidisciplinary team in the clinic.  

Why did you become a pharmacist?I have always liked math and science.  I wanted to be part of the health care team and work with patients as well as other providers.  I also find it fascinating to understand how drugs work in the body to improve disease states and promote wellness.

What do you love most about your job?  Working with kids and the wonderful community of coworkers that strive to improve care for each patient everyday.

How do you spend your time outside of work? I like to enjoy the outdoors, travel to warm places, cheer on Minnesota sports teams and spend quality time with my friends and family.  The last  five and a half months have been pretty busy as my husband and I had our first child, so most of my free time is spent with my adorable baby girl Whitney these days.

Five Question Friday: Susan Dicker

Meet Susan Dicker, a perinatal HIV nurse coordinator at Children’s.

How long have you worked at Children’s?  I’ve been here since this spring, April 5, 2013.  But I actually started my nursing career at Children’s – Minneapolis on the float team for two years from 1998 to 2000 when I just finished nursing school.

Describe your work at Children’s. My working title is Perinatal HIV Nurse Coordinator. In this role I collaborate with OB and HIV medical and support staff to provide nursing care coordination for HIV-infected pregnant women, their HIV-exposed infants and their families in Minnesota.  One of the unique aspects to this work is that my service is accessible across health systems, and I serve as a resource to patients, families, providers and the larger community.  Essentially I can go anywhere in the state to support a client, offer education and work to improve health outcomes for this population of mothers and infants.

World AIDS Day is on Dec. 1. What is Minnesota and Children’s doing to help combat AIDS? Minnesota has many medical care and support services for people living with HIV and AIDS funded by the federal Ryan White CARE Act. The Minnesota Department of Health supports many different prevention programs for those most at risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV. 

At Children’s we provide medical care and specialized support services to over 100 children and adolescents infected with HIV. Children come to us from all over Minnesota and surrounding states and all over the world. Children’s also houses the Minnesota Perinatal HIV Program. We provide nursing care coordination for women and their partners during pregnancy and up to six months following birth, and offer education on the latest treatment and prevention guidelines and consultation to medical providers across the state caring for these women and their families.  We also offer preconception counseling and guidance for couples wishing to conceive safely and prevent HIV transmission.

What do you love most about your job? I get to sit down and really engage with my clients since building trust is a huge piece of this work. The initial intake appointments are typically about 90 minutes to two hours, and I can meet the woman wherever she is comfortable – in her home, the clinic, a library. And then I can meet with her as often as she requests, sometimes it’s every couple of weeks, sometimes it’s checking in by phone, depending on her particular circumstances.  Thirty-nine percent of our clients are just learning about their HIV diagnosis with the pregnancy so you can well imagine the impact it has on them and their ability to take in this information and trust that their newborn has an excellent chance to be healthy and HIV-free. In addition, close to 40 percent of our client population is from Africa, where their experience of living with – or too often dying from- HIV is very different from what is possible in the United States. It’s just an incredible privilege to support these women to have the best outcomes possible for themselves and their newborns at this juncture of their lives.

What is your favorite restaurant? Obento-ya. It’s a great Japanese restaurant in southeast Minneapolis with wonderful food and a nice small atmosphere at a very reasonable price.


Five Question Friday: Shannon Swanson

Meet Shannon Swanson, a nurse on our neurosurgery team.

How long have you worked at Children’s? I’ve worked at Children’s for over 12 years.

What’s a typical day like for you? My typical day is, well, I don’t really have a typical day because we see so many different types of patients and surgeries, and I hold several different roles on our unit.  Some days I’m the team lead or charge nurse and some days I’m in the office handling the neurosurgery resource lead duties, and some days I’m in the OR as a circulating nurse.

Still, there are some predictable patterns to the types of surgeries that I deal with. We arrive at work and attend morning report at 7 a.m. From there, I go to the room I’m assigned and start looking at my surgical cases for the day, taking note of any special equipment/transport or provider needs.

The first case of the day usually is scheduled between 7:30 and 8 a.m. As a team we get the room ready and all the supplies needed for our case. I review my patient chart and join the anesthesia team out by the patient’s room to do our safety checks and we all (patient, family member, anesthetist) walk back to the OR together.

From that point on, it is a continuous flow of assessment and technical skill to meet the health care needs of my patient. As OR nurses we are constantly managing the flow of the room and the care of the patient so that everything happens in a safe, effective manner. We are not only responsible for patient assessment but legal documentation, as well.  We must make sure all surgical policies and procedures are carried out to Children’s standard. After the case is over we are responsible for transferring care to our PACU nursing staff.

On a typical day, I might have anywhere from one to 10 cases depending on the length of time each surgery takes.  It would be impossible to write out all that we have to accomplish with each specific and unique case. It can be a fast paced environment where things change all the time. Working in neurosurgery, you must be prepared, you have to be ready for anything, but you also need to maintain a sense of calmness. 

Why did you become a nurse? I went into nursing because my grandmother told me she thought I would make a good nurse. It’s as simple as that. I was very close to my grandmother and respected her a great deal.

What do you love most about neurosurgery? What I love most is the challenge that each of the cases brings to the table. It is awesome to work with the latest and greatest technology and the best surgeons in the field. The cases are hard but rewarding, and it is that rewarding feeling knowing you are helping a family that keeps you coming back when you have a particularly hard case. Neurosurgery is a physically and emotionally taxing specialty, but overall it’s an extremely rewarding career. I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

How do you spend your time outside of work? I have a very active family life! I have two children. My oldest just left for college this past fall, and my daughter is a sophomore in high school. I love to exercise, travel and read. My favorite past times are biking, doing yoga and spending time with my family and friends trying new restaurants!

Five Question Friday: Abby Davis

Meet Abby Davis, a member of our chaplaincy team!

Abby Davis

How long have you worked at Children’s? I started at Children’s in 1996 as a chaplain resident through Abbott Northwestern Hospital.  I came from Boston for a short-term residency program, but I have now been here for 17 years! I have been assigned to the NICU and ICC the whole 17 years. I spent four years in cancer and blood disorders and various other units, but I am currently assigned to NICU, ICC and the Eating Disorders inpatient unit.

What drew you to chaplaincy? At my liberal arts college in Maine, I was studying religion and Spanish.  One summer, I was interpreting Spanish at Massachusetts General Hospital.  As the patients and I made small talk, they asked what I was studying. When I said religion, the patients would talk about their faith, either that their faith was the one thing carrying them through their hospitalization or else that they were struggling with their faith amidst their suffering.  I was drawn to listening to and supporting people as they explored their faith during difficult times. My pastor mom was the person who suggested hospital chaplaincy. It has been a perfect fit.

What do you love most about your job? I love having REAL conversations with people.  Sometimes these conversations are painful for patients and families, and sometimes they are joyful.  It is important to me to support people during difficult times, be with them in the struggle as well as help them feel some hope and/or peace.  Also, I love that I am able to work with people from many different faith backgrounds, whether they are “religious” or “spiritual,” both or unsure where they stand!  I appreciate the diverse cultures that we work with at Children’s and that I still get to speak Spanish! I could not be more grateful for the other chaplains, Dee, Hal, Sherry, Brian and all of the on-call chaplains. We have an amazing group in the chaplaincy department! We give each other good support, and we have a lot of fun.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a kid, I wanted to be a dog trainer, an actress or a singer! I still don’t have a dog, but I do coordinate the Children’s staff choir. We sing at various Children’s events and services. Let me know if you want to join us!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? My husband and I enjoy low budget backpacking for travel. I lived in Guatemala, and my husband and I took a year off to backpack three months in New Zealand/Australia, seven months in Asia and two months in southern Africa! Now that we have three kids, we go mostly to New England to visit my family. I would love to go to the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, and other parts of South America or simply see more of Europe. In an instant, I would return to my favorite places: Guatemala, Nepal, Laos, Swaziland or New Zealand!



Five Question Friday: Richard Holcomb

It’s Five Question Friday! Meet Richard Holcomb, our Welcome Center supervisor.

How long have you worked at Children’s? Since June of 2012 – a year and a half. 

What drew you to Children’s? A friend, Kendall Munson, convinced me that I would like working at Children’s, and he was correct.
What brings you back to Children’s, day after day? The staff and the children. I work with kind and compassionate people. The culture is positive and accepts that we are human and make mistakes, and most staff, I know work, diligently to provide the best service and care possible. Sometimes when my office door is open, a child will say hello as she/he is passing in the hallway. Or you will get to have a brief interaction with a family – these always remind me why we are here and how wonderful our patients are.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Almost too difficult to answer, as I would travel most anywhere. New Zealand, Nepal, West Africa and anywhere in Europe again.
When you’re not at work, how do you spend your time? Bicycling, swimming, workout at the gym, reading, traveling.

Five Question Friday: Adriene Thornton

Meet Adriene Thornton, an infection preventionist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

How long have you worked at Children’s? 15 years
What drew you to infection prevention? I have a passion for maintaining a clean environment and taking steps to prevent infections from occurring. I don’t like it when kids (and I) get sick!
What do you love most about your job? The fact that there is always a new challenge, so I never get bored.
Flu season is just around the corner. Do you have any advice for how to prevent it? Get your flu shot! Eat healthy food, do hand hygiene often, and keep a tissue handy for cleaning your nose.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Milan, Italy. I love fashion and Milan is the fashion capital of the world so it’s perfect.  Plus I hear the french drink wine with their lunch!

Five Question Friday: Michael Dimunation


Meet Michael Dimunation, a developer at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Michael Dimunation

What  does a typical day look like for you? The Children’s developers group is responsible for several websites, web applications, desktop applications, databases and reporting systems.  As such, my typical day at Children’s might be comprised of anything from planned software development, updates for existing applications and websites, marketing initiatives, or any number of systems administration or maintenance tasks.

All of the Children’s developers manage a pretty substantial workload on a day-to-day basis, and usually have five to 10 active projects in the works at any given time. The scope of the projects ranges from larger applications with a project duration of several months, such as the new pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) quality database system, to mid-size projects, such as the Mighty blog redesign, all the way down to one-off web pages and email templates, such as the microsite for the recent Adrian Peterson “Eat Big, Give Big” fundraiser.

Throw in a pot of coffee (give or take), a few complaints about the Vikings, and a walk around the lake next to the Center Point office, and that about sums up a typical day.

You recently built Mighty — a Children’s health blog. What did that involve? I played a significant role in the development of the new Mighty blog, but it was by no means a singular effort – a lot of other very talented people were involved in the process, from marketing and graphic design to systems administration and architecture. The final release represents the efforts of a number of individuals and departments, a team of which I was happy to be a part.

“Mighty” was a complete overhaul of the existing  kids’ health blog. This involved a complete rewrite of the design templates, which dictate the overall look and feel of the site. There were also significant categorization and taxonomy changes, greatly simplifying the number of post categories and the organization of each new post on the blog. We also made several changes to the core WordPress system (the content management system we use for smaller websites and blogs), and added a number of new features and enhancements specific to the Children’s IT environment.

On my end, I started with a general overview of the new site requirements, and a complete set of graphic design mocks from our marketing department. The design mocks are delivered as Photoshop files, which are essentially a series of interwoven text and graphic layers that can be manipulated and extracted into discrete images, fonts and other assets.

Once this process is complete, the overall design and layout is built as a series of HTML page designs and styles, and then converted for use as WordPress templates. Some pages, such as the new homepage, receive special treatment, such as a rotating slideshow of new posts in a featured category or a list of recent updates to the blog. Code from other Children’s websites is then merged into the template (such as the top header, footer, and page navigation from our main internet site), creating a hybrid system containing elements from several different sources.

There is an overarching, concerted effort in the Children’s development group towards the unification of our disparate systems into reusable, centralized modules wherever possible. With the new Mighty site design, we took significant steps to design the final product as a universal, customizable template for future Children’s websites, which should allow us to more easily manage new web development efforts with significantly less maintenance and technical debt.

What do you love most about your job? To a large extent, the developers group is a small consulting team within the larger Children’s organization, and it has been a real treat to meet directly with so many different people in a wide variety of departments and positions. There is never a shortage of variety in the projects we undertake, and it is a rarity in the industry to work with such a broad range of platforms and systems, from our enterprise EMR and clinical systems all the way down to open source content systems and one-off web pages. There is also a strong sense of self-management and product ownership in our group, and with that comes a high degree of creative latitude and innovation. 

As cliché as this sounds, it is readily apparent that the work we do as developers has tangible, positive consequences in the lives of our patients. For example, the recently completed PICU Quality Database (the first of its kind in the industry), sponsored by a physician in our PICU, is a custom designed application used to measure specific and proprietary metrics relating to the care of PICU patients. The ongoing analysis and reporting of this information will lead to direct, measurable increases in the quality of care for future PICU patients.

Another example is the recent “Eat Big, Give Big” event with Adrian Peterson. My involvement with the project was limited to a few web pages and email templates, but seeing the photographs of the event the next day showing some of our patients holding a football, shaking hands with AP with huge smiles on their faces provides a sense of purpose for the work. This event will stand out as a bright spot for these kids, and I’m happy that I was able to be a part of it.

When you’re not at work, how do you spend your time? Working on various cars, boats and an assortment of other motorized vehicles, boating on the St. Croix river, building furniture out of old engine parts (seriously), and continuing my quest for the perfect buffalo wing in the Minneapolis area (if you have any wing recommendations, please send them my way).

What is your favorite meal? I’m always jokingly (but not really jokingly) suggesting that our meetings here need to more food involved, so I’m not surprised this question is on here. If I had to choose, it would be either 1) a Manny’s steak dinner, or 2) my mother’s porcupine meatball recipe (1 lb beef, Rice-A-Roni beef flavor, one egg, mix, form into meatballs, simmer for 45 minutes) – seriously good comfort food.