Category Archives: Featured

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.”

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

A peek inside a music therapist’s cart: What do you do with all that stuff?

This music therapy cart contains instruments, not ice cream.

Erinn Frees and Kim Arter

Some people have a bag of tricks, but the music therapists at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota are lucky to have a whole cart. Since music therapists use music to accomplish nonmusical goals, having the right instruments available to accomplish these goals is important. If you have been to the hospital, you’ve probably seen us pushing around big, white carts or smaller, black boxes full of instruments. Here’s a peek at how we might use all those instruments:

The guitar provides rhythmic energy.

Guitar

This probably is the most-versatile tool we have, and it’s rare for any of us to do a session without one. We use the guitar to accompany much of the music we produce during sessions, and it can provide rhythmic energy, motivation to move or quietly relaxing chords.

Whether we are playing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to help slow down a baby’s heart rate or “Call Me Maybe” to promote self-expression in a preteen, the guitar is a must.

 

Music therapists typically carry around quite a few kinds of drums.

Drums 

We typically carry around quite a few kinds of drums. Imagine one patient using a drum to work on reaching his arms over his head, while another patient uses a hand drum to express her frustration and anger about not being able to go home this weekend. The music therapist even can facilitate drum circles with groups of patients, which can release stress and anxiety while providing a sense of group cohesion.

 

Harmonicas can increase breath support for a patient with decreased lung function.

Harmonicas

These also have a variety of purposes. They can increase breath support for a patient with decreased lung function or calm nerves as a patient is encouraged to breathe in and out evenly in order to produce a good sound on the instrument. It can provide a way to improvise for someone who never has played an instrument, which can help a patient express him or herself through music.

 

A wind chime is a great instrument for a child who has a limited range of motion or a severe developmental delay.

Wind chimes

This is a great instrument for a child who has a limited range of motion or a severe developmental delay. This instrument can be placed near any part of a child’s body of which he or she can control movement (fingers, knees, feet, elbows), providing a motivating ring with even the smallest movement.

 

 

A young child may use a xylophone with different-colored bars to learn colors.

Xylophones

These again are extremely versatile instruments. A young child may use a xylophone with different-colored bars to learn colors, while another child may need practice holding onto the small mallet in order increase fine motor control. Another child may find the metallic shimmer of the xylophone’s sound helps him relax. 

Music therapists have a large variety of shakers, including maracas, egg shakers, mini-maracas and fruit/vegetable shakers.

Shakers

We have a large variety of shakers, including maracas, egg shakers, mini-maracas and fruit/vegetable shakers. Shakers are great movement motivators in which a patient can work on grasping or passing the instrument back and forth from one hand to the other. A music therapist might model specific movements for the patient to follow. This requires focus and attention to task.

These are just a few examples of why we might choose a particular instrument to use during a session. We have many more instruments inside our cart, and other reasons for using each of them. We’d love for you to ask us to take a look sometime. We’re sorry; our carts do not contain ice cream (we get asked this question often) — but we think there is something much better inside!

Erinn Frees and Kim Arter are music therapists 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.

Tanning turmoil: Why getting ‘bronzed’ is hazardous to teen health

For teens, one visit to a tanning bed increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent. (iStock photo)

Gigi Chawla, MD

Every spring, many of us weary from a long winter head south to warmer climes; teens across the country attend prom with their sweethearts. And what do kids tend to do before events like these?

Hit the tanning salon.

Looking “pasty white” in a swimsuit or a new dress just won’t do, right? Think again.

Gigi Chawla, MD

Gigi Chawla, MD

Here’s a brief warning to help dispel the myth of “getting a base tan” before these events. Or ever.

Currently, 35 percent of 17-year-old girls in the U.S. are using tanning beds and 55 percent of college-aged kids have used one at least once.

In 2014, the Star Tribune reported “a third of white 11th-grade Minnesota girls have tanned indoors in the past year, according to a state survey … and more than half of them used sun beds, sunlamps or tanning booths at least 10 times in a recent 12-month period.”

What isn’t immediately clear to our kids is that during a tanning-bed session they may receive up to 12 times the ultraviolet (UV) exposure as they receive being outside in the natural sunlight. This UV radiation exposure from tanning beds is dangerous and linked to three types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Here’s the potential damage that one tanning-bed session can cause a teen:

  • The risk of developing melanoma increases by 20 percent.
  • The risk of developing basal cell carcinoma increases by 29 percent.
  • The risk of squamous cell carcinoma increases by 67 percent

subscribe_blogFor people younger than 35 using a tanning bed, the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer of any type increases by 74 percent.

Specifically, it increases the lifetime risk of:

  • Melanoma by 75 percent
  • Basal cell carcinoma by 150 percent
  • Squamous cell carcinoma by a whopping 250 percent

Moreover, skin cancer now is the leading form of cancer in 25- to 29-year-olds.

Another startling fact: More skin cancer cases arise from tanning-bed use than lung cancer cases do from smoking; yet, in our culture, bronzed skin is seen as a form of beauty.

Some advice to parents: Remember to reinforce to your teens that they are beautiful or handsome no matter the shade of their skin. What’s important is what’s inside. I like to think that we live in an era in which we can look past skin color, where we are not judged by skin color and we should not see beauty based on skin color.

It’s time to remind your kids to “go with your own natural glow.”

Gigi Chawla, MD, is a pediatrician, hospitalist and the Senior Medical Director of Primary Care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Her areas of interest are the care of complex special needs patients, premature infants, ventilator dependent children and care of hospitalized patients.

Sources: The Skin Cancer Foundation, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

5 things you may not know about music therapy

Erinn Frees (right), a music therapist at Children’s, tells us five things you may not know about music therapy. At left is music therapist Kim Arter.

In honor of Music Therapy Week, music therapist Erinn Frees gives us a look at her job at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.subscribe_blog

Stepping onto the Children’s elevators each day, guitars on our backs and instruments in hand, we tend to draw comments from fellow riders. They range from the typical “You must be the entertainment” to “Do you actually play all those instruments?” to “I wish I had your job.”

Although explaining the ins and outs of music therapy isn’t always possible by the time one of us gets off on the fourth floor, we do usually manage to smile and say, “I’m one of the music therapists.” After being in this field for almost seven years, I find that this doesn’t always provide a lot of clarification. So in no particular order, here are five things that you might not know about music therapy:

1. Music therapy isn’t just for fun. Don’t get me wrong, music therapy usually is funWhat kid or teen doesn’t enjoy music, especially when they get to play along on a shaker or fancy electronic drum set?  However, a casual observer may not notice that a music therapist has goals for each patient he/she works with, ranging from giving a 3-year-old an effective means of emotional expression when he doesn’t have the words, to giving a 15-year-old relaxation strategies using music during a procedure, to motivating a 10-year-old to get out of bed.  The point of music therapy is that we are using the musical experience as a means of reaching a non-musical goal.

2. A child doesn’t need to be a musician or have musical experience to benefit from music therapy. Our goal as music therapists is not to teach kids how to play an instrument, or sing better, or dazzle everyone with their harmonica stylings. Therefore, the child doesn’t need to be musical to benefit from music therapy. Even patients who are sedated can benefit from music therapy, as music therapy can lower heart rate and blood pressure, as well as increase oxygen saturations. Patients who are able to participate on a more active level can play drums, shakers, xylophones and even a special type of harp with little to no previous musical experience.  A music therapist may use teaching the guitar as a way to improve the child’s fine motor skills, or having a child blow through the harmonica as a way to encourage deep breathing, but learning skills on these instruments is never the goal of the session.

3. We always use patient-preferred music. Music therapists use music from all genres to effect positive changes in the patients we work with.  We wouldn’t use “Old MacDonald” in a session with a 16-year-old (unless he or she requested it!) and we probably wouldn’t use a song from the 1920s with a 5-year-old. One of the first things music therapists ask when getting to know a new patient is what kind of music the he or she prefers.  We then work to accomplish our goals using this or similar music. We can’t promise to know every song, (we’re not human jukeboxes!) but we can always use recorded music or find a similar song if need be.

4. Music therapists are not just musicians waiting to make our big break on “American Idol.” Across the board, the music therapists I know went into the field because they want to use their passion for music to make a difference in people’s lives. We went to school for four or six years to do exactly what we do: music therapy. We spent six full months doing an unpaid music therapy internship and worked hard for the jobs we have. Although some music therapists perform outside of their day jobs, we are not performing when we are working with patients. Just listening to us sing is not likely to accomplish very many therapeutic goals!

5. We don’t just sing and play instruments. We do a lot of singing and instrument play with kids, this is true. However, we also work with kids doing songwriting (for emotional expression, processing, or a way to “tell your story”), lyric discussion (again to process emotions, facilitate coping, or put a new perspective on problems), music-assisted relaxation, procedural support, recording, and CD compilation.

So let’s go back to the elevator, so we can finish those conversations:

“You must be the entertainment!” – No, I’m not a performer. I do get to spend the day making great music with courageous, insightful and amazing kids, though!

“Do you actually play all those instruments?” Yes, I can… but I’d rather have the kids playing them!

“I wish I had your job!” – Yes, it is a wonderful and rewarding profession, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else!

4 ways to monitor your kids’ social media use

Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits. (iStock photo)

Maggie Sonnek

If Jennifer Soucheray had a Twitter handle, it probably would be something clever like @JentheMamaHen or @MrsSouchRocks. But this third-grade teacher and mom of three teens doesn’t have a Twitter account.

Or Instagram.

Or Snapchat.

But her three kids do. So, she and her husband, Paul, have had to find ways to monitor their social media use without being, “like, totes uncool.”

I asked Soucheray, along with a few others, to share a few of their tips and best practices when it comes to kids and social media. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits

Whether it’s texting, tweeting or using Facebook, these parents tout the benefits of putting limits in place early. According to the Soucheray household, texting and Twitter are the most common ways their kids communicate digitally.

“We know their phones are lifelines to their friends,” Soucheray said. “They need these tools otherwise they’ll be ostracized. But as parents you have to develop parameters for what’s acceptable use.”

One way these parents have put boundaries in place? All devices are turned in to Mom and Dad before bedtime.

2. Validate kids every day, offline

Soucheray, who taught middle school for 12 years, says it’s extremely important to validate your kids every day. She said that’s one reason why Facebook and other social media tools are so popular — because we’re all looking to be validated. (Author’s note: Not going to lie; there have been times that I’ve fallen into this trap and checked in on a status update or picture I posted to see how many “likes” it has received. And when the number is higher or the comments are positive, for some reason, I feel a little better.)

“If a kid doesn’t hear she’s pretty or smart by someone who cares about her, she’s going to look for that somewhere else,” Soucheray said.

Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-teen-development specialist and body-image expert, agrees.

“Teens are defining themselves during adolescence,” she wrote on her blog. “They are figuring out where they fit into their social world and hoping that others look at them favorably.”

Soucheray and Silverman say it’s important to talk about your kids’ true gifts.

“Make sure your children understand that their strengths — such as their kind heart, conscious nature or musical ability — are recognized,” Silverman said, “and really make a difference.”

subscribe_blog3. Use the tools for good

One thing that surprised me as I chatted with parents and teachers is: Kids are using social media more than just a platform to post “selfies.” They’re also using it as a homework-helper.

Dan Willaert, a geometry and AP statistics teacher and Cretin-Derham Hall wrestling coach, tweets out reminders and practice problems to his followers on a regular basis.

“I’ll write out a problem, snap a picture and then tweet it,” Willaert said. He has a Twitter account for wrestling, too, and often sends updates about tournaments, schedule changes and snow days.

4. Be present

Soucheray admits she doesn’t have the right answer or the perfect balance for monitoring tweets and texts, but her one piece of advice is something all parents can take with them. And that’s simply to be present.

“Dig in and be there with them… be in the moment,” she said.

Maybe someday @JentheMamaHen will tweet out that advice to her followers. But for now, she has papers to grade and dinner to make. Her Twitter days will have to wait.

Maggie Sonnek is a writer, blogger, lover-of-outdoors and mama to two young kiddos. When she’s not kissing boo-boos or cutting up someone’s food, she likes to beat her husband at Scrabble.

Meet Katie

What Katie loves most about Children’s is the music therapy program.

What Katie loves most about Children’s is the music therapy program.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Katie

Age: 5

Hometown: Eden Prairie

Katie was rushed from Abbott Northwestern Hospital to Children’s after she was born 15 weeks early. She only weighed a pound and had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 99 days. According to her mom, she is now happy, healthy and doing wonderfully.

When Katie grows up, she wants to be a dancer. She loves to dance.

What Katie loves most about Children’s is the music therapy program. Her brother, a member of our Youth Advisory Council (YAC), even helped to design a music cart for the music therapists at Children’s.

Define safe boundaries for kids and play

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Dex Tuttle

Not long ago, I watched my toddler daughter, Quinnlyn, as she played with her favorite blocks. She picked one up, stacked it carefully on top of another, and repeated until she had a tower four or five blocks high. Without warning, she pummeled the tower while sounding her signature high-pitched battle cry, sending blocks flying in all directions. She immediately seemed to regret not having a tower and ran to pick up the blocks to start the process over.

Young children begin to understand their world by cause-and-effect experimentation. Psychologist Jean Piaget was one of the first to put this concept into organized thought.

This behavior is apparent with my daughter: “If I stick my hand in the dog’s water dish, my shirt gets wet. This pleases me and I must do this each morning, preferably after mommy helps me put on a clean shirt.”

Then, something occurred to me as I watched Quinnlyn build and destroy her tower; there is a trigger missing in her young mind that could change her behavior: She does not understand consequence, the indirect product of an effect.

I began to notice this in her other activities as well. At dinnertime, we give her a plastic fork and spoon so she can work on her motor skills. If she’s unhappy with how dinner is going, she throws her fork and spoon on the floor in a fit of toddler rage. She is then immediately puzzled by how she’ll continue her meal now that her utensils are so far away.

Subscribe to MightyAs frustrating as toddler tantrums can sometimes be for parents, I’d love to be in my daughter’s shoes. Who wouldn’t want the satisfaction of taking all those dirty dishes that have been in the sink for two days and chucking them against the wall? That decision, of course, would be dangerous and reckless and I have no desire to clean up such a mess. And, with no dishes in the house, I’d be forced to take a toddler to the store to shop for breakable things; not a winning combination.

There’s an important lesson here for safety-minded parents: Kids will explore their environment in whatever way they can. It’s like the feeling you get when you find a $20 bill in the pocket of a pair of pants you haven’t worn in months, or when you discover the newest tool, gadget or fashion. For toddlers (and us adults), it’s fun finding new things and learning new skills; it’s motivating and creates a feeling of accomplishment. However, the cognitive skills of a toddler haven’t developed beyond that cause-effect understanding.

This is why we need to consider the environment in which our young children play. I recommend giving them plenty of space and opportunity to experiment without worry of the consequence:

  • Make sure stairs are blocked off securely and unsafe climbing hazards are eliminated; encourage kids to explore the space you define.
  • Create a space to explore free of choking hazards, potential poisons and breakable or valuable items; leave plenty of new objects for children to discover, and change the objects out when the kids seem to grow tired of them.
  • Allow children to fail at certain tasks; be encouraging and positive without intervening as they try again.
  • If possible, discuss their actions and consequences with them to help them understand the reason for your rules.

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. When it’s critical, so is your choice – Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, Minneapolis.

Dex Tuttle is the injury prevention program coordinator at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and the father of a curious and mobile toddler. He has a Master of Education degree from Penn State University.

Five Question Friday: Terrance Davis

Five Question FridayIt’s Friday, and what better way to celebrate the end of the week than with a Five Question Friday profile? Meet Terrance Davis, who works on our Environmental Services team within the Minneapolis Surgery department.

Terrance Davis has worked at Children's for 25 years.

Terrance Davis has worked at Children’s for 25 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked here for 25 years.

Describe your role.

I clean surgery rooms between cases and stock supplies.

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

I have a few favorites:

  • The surgery staff surprised me with a 50th birthday celebration.
  • Each annual craft show, which is so much fun
  • Gathering for the Environmental Services Week events

What do you think make kids great?

I have a couple answers for this one. First, they can smile at you and make your entire day better. Second, they have great energy, which can be contagious.

What is one interesting fact about you?

I was married in Las Vegas at the top of the Stratosphere tower with local TV personality “Fancy Ray” McCloney standing with me as my best man.

Five Question Friday: Kelly Patnode

Five Question Friday

Meet Kelly Patnode, patient access specialist at our St. Paul hospital, who has a love for the Minnesota State Fair.

When she isn't working in our St. Paul hospital, Kelly Patnode enjoys reading and helping out at the Minnesota State Fair.

When she isn’t working in our St. Paul hospital, Kelly Patnode enjoys reading and helping out at the Minnesota State Fair.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s in St. Paul for 36 years.

What drew you to Children’s?

I started in St. Paul when it was on “the hill” (across the highway from our current location) as a volunteer at the age of 13. I was a volunteer for four years. I went to school for medical office occupations, but there were no openings at that time. When I was talking to someone at Children’s, they said there was an opening for a health unit coordinator. I asked what that person did, and they explained that person works at the main desk on the floors. I asked if that was similar to a ward secretary, and they said yes. I said, “Well, I have done that job for four years, so I think I could do it!”

Subscribe to MightyWhat is a typical day like for you?

My typical day starts with making a coffee. It is just the right way to start of the day. I then clean and restart all the computers, restock supplies and then either sit at the emergency room desk and start answering the phone, make calls for the providers, put together a chart or break down a chart or start with registering patients who come to be seen in the ER.

What do you love most about your job?

Every day is a different day. What I did yesterday at my job may be totally different than the day before or today. If I can get a smile out of a patient and their parents, it just makes the day better.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Usually I read books. But during the summertime I am busy because I also work at the Minnesota State Fair, selling box-office tickets for grandstand shows and pre-fair tickets. I have been working there for 38 years. So when I am not working at the hospital, I am at the fair. I am actually taking vacation from the hospital to work full time at the fair this year.