September 29, 2015

93015SWATHIBALAJI175The Department of Surgery is pleased to announce that Dr. Swathi Balaji has joined the Pediatric Surgery Research Laboratory at Texas Children’s Hospital. Balaji has also been appointed assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Balaji to the Texas Children’s Division of Pediatric Surgery,” said Dr. Jed Nuchtern, chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery.

“Dr. Balaji’s recruitment represents a further commitment to develop a world-class research effort within the Department of Surgery,” Nuchtern said. “She has had significant scientific success by melding her bioengineering background with her interest in regenerative medicine to push the translational envelope.”

Nuchtern said the goal of her research is to understand the underlying mechanisms of how the fetus heals without scarring to achieve postnatal regenerative tissue repair in various organ systems. Balaji will be joining the Laboratory for Regenerative Tissue Repair, which is directed by surgeon-scientist Dr. Sundeep Keswani.

Balaji was most recently a postdoctoral research associate in the Division of Pediatric, General, Thoracic and Fetal Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She received her doctorate degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Cincinnati and did her postdoctoral training at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

September 22, 2015

Texas Children’s is committed to the health, safety and well-being of our patients, families and workforce. This commitment is especially evident as we enter flu season, a time when people – especially the elderly, children and those with health problems – are at risk of contracting an infection that can cause mild to severe illness, or in some cases, even death.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year. Texas Children’s makes that process easy by offering free flu shots to all Texas Children’s employees, Baylor College of Medicine employees working in Texas Children’s facilities, Texas Children’s medical staff and volunteers.

Employee Health currently is administering free flu vaccinations to these populations at various events at Main and West campuses, the first few of which are occurring September 22, 24 and 29 from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on The Auxiliary Bridge. Leaders from Texas Children’s Pediatrics, Texas Children’s Health Centers and The Center for Women and Children will inform their staff about flu shot details.

Click here to view the dates and locations for your vaccination. If you are unable to make one of these dates, please make an appointment at the Employee Health clinic, located on the fifth floor of the Abercrombie Building near the yellow elevators, after Thursday, October 1. If you have questions, please call Employee Health at Ext. 4-2150. West Campus Employee Health is located on the campus’ second floor and can be reached at Ext. 7-1365.

Last year, Texas Children’s achieved a 90 percent vaccination rate. We want to reach or exceed that rate this year. As a reminder, employees should be in compliance by Tuesday, December 1. Additional information about our vaccination policy and procedures can be found here and here.

Leaders can run reports for their area(s) via the Health and Wellness portal. Individuals who would like to view and/or print their immunization records can click here for instructions on how to access that portal.

Thank you for helping to safeguard the wellness of our patients, families, community and workforce by getting your seasonal influenza vaccination,” said Jill Fragoso, director of Employee Health and Wellness. “It’s quick and easy, and it’s simply the right thing to do.”

Stay tuned for updates about Texas Children’s seasonal vaccination program.


92315EpicRover640More than 1 million patients are harmed each year in the United States because of medical errors. One of the most common, yet preventable medical errors involves the administration of medication.

Providing medicine to patients is more than just handing out pills or delivering drugs through an IV line. It’s a complex, multi-step process that involves meticulously checking and re-verifying that the medicine being prescribed, transcribed, dispensed and administered is going to the right patient every time.

As part of our commitment to patient safety, Texas Children’s has already begun implementing Epic Rover, a mobile software application that uses barcode technology designed to prevent medication errors and improve the quality and safety of medication administration.

Epic Rover is an extension of the electronic medication administration record (MAR) within Epic. Once this software is downloaded to an iPod Touch equipped with a scanner or sled, nurses and respiratory therapists scan the barcode on the patient’s wristband and the barcode on the prescribed medication at the patient’s bedside. The medication documentation then flows real-time into the MAR in Epic.

Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA) helps our clinical staff verify the administration of medication more efficiently by assuring that the “five rights” are confirmed – right patient, right medication, right dose, right time and right route of administration.

“Medication scanning creates a significantly safer process and improves compliance with industry standards and regulations,” said Texas Children’s Clinical Informatics Director Jennifer Sanders. “It’s a safety measure for our patients and provides an additional safety net for our frontline nurses and clinical staff who are the last line of defense to prevent medication errors.”

Before Epic Rover, our nurses and respiratory therapists manually conducted the “five rights” checks. With BCMA, the entire process is done electronically. However, clinical staff must still rely on their critical thinking and judgment to ensure medication ordered by the physician matches the medication prepared and dispensed in the pharmacy before it is administered to the patient.

To help primary users adjust to the BCMA system, the Epic Rover rollout will be implemented in phases over a 9-week period with the completion of the final rollout phase on Saturday, November 21.

Epic Rover rollout schedule:

Dates          Weeks                  Grouping
9/22/15        1 and 2         PFW, Respiratory Therapy
10/6/15        3                   West Campus: 3W, PICU, EC, PACU, 5W/SIU
10/13/15      4                   Main: All EC areas, Floats
10/20/15      5                   9WT, 10WT, 11WT, 12WT, IRU
10/27/15      6                   PRCU, BMT, 14WT
11/3/15        7                   6N, 7N, 7S
11/10/15      8                   NICU 2, NICU 4, PFW NICU
11/17/15      9                   PICU, CVICU, 15WT

Mandatory training will include a Health Stream module, an Epic video and a 90-minute hands-on classroom training session. All staff must complete training before the go-live.

“Our goal is to reach 90 percent compliance in 90 days,” said Texas Children’s Clinical Informatics Supervisor Erin Davies. “We’re confident we will reach this goal because our clinical staff is committed to creating an environment of safe patient care.”

The implementation of Epic Rover would not be possible without the collaboration from several departments including Clinical Informatics, Information Services, Pharmacy, Respiratory Care, Nursing and the Nursing Professional Development team who helped create the training curriculum.

For Aleida Stark, RN, each time a new patient receives their diagnosis at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, she begins a new puzzle. The care that is required for patients in the very complex world of hematology and oncology requires a massive amount of coordination. That work is taken on by nurse coordinators who serve as the point of contacts for families, patients and providers. The nurses in this role are constantly moving around the puzzle pieces to ensure everything fits.

“As nurse coordinators, we’re in charge of making sure the families understand their diagnosis,” Stark said. “Our job is to empower the patients and families and educate them to recognize events that need to be reported back to their care providers.”

Stark works closely with Dr. Donald Mahoney, director of Texas Children’s Hematology Center.

“We deal with very complicated problems here and these problems are not simply managed with a brief office visit,” Mahoney said. “It requires extended care support and that’s where the nurse coordinator fits the critical role.”

The role is one that has been present for adult cancer and hematology patients for years, but Texas Children’s is the first to create a role to this extent for the pediatric Hematology and Oncology patient population. Denise Tanner-Brown, clinical director of the Cancer and Hematology Center said the role has recently been reshaped to more closely align with the patients’ and providers’ needs and is growing with seven new positions added in the hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplant outpatient areas with recruitment currently underway.

“Cancer and Hematology care is so complex and our patients touch so many different services in the organization and many times they felt lost in a big and complex system,” Tanner-Brown said. “Our patients needed a central person to help them along the way that’s what they have found in our nurse coordinators.”

The nurse coordinator is with the patient throughout their care at Texas Children’s. From their outpatient clinic visits to any time they are admitted to the hospital or visit the Emergency Center, their nurse coordinator is there to ensure continuum and coordination of care. For the nurses in this role, the relationships are unlike any other area of care.

“There is a different level of satisfaction in this role because you see the entire continuum of care,” Tanner-Brown said. “In this role, you experience the successes, challenges and emotional roller coasters along with the families throughout the months or years they are in our care.”

Tanner-Brown said the right person for this position must be compassionate as they deal with patients in the most vulnerable moments of their lives and must be self-motivated with a great sense of collaboration.

For those interested in applying, contact Debora Harris, assistant director of Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic or Judy Holloway, assistant director of Hematology/Oncology Clinic.

The 2015 Annual Required Training (ART) course is live in HealthStream through Wednesday, September 30. All employees, contractors, volunteers, etc. will have until September 30, or earlier at the discretion of their leader, to complete the course to satisfy ART requirements. The completion goal is 100 percent across the organization.

What is the purpose of ART?

Joint Commission and OSHA require that staff renew their knowledge on an annual basis regarding key components such as: Patient Safety, Bloodborne Pathogens, Hand Hygiene, Diversity and several other important topics. Texas Children’s, in keeping with HIPAA guidelines, also requires staff to review their knowledge regarding Privacy, Compliance, and Information Security to ensure that Texas Children’s continues to sustain a safe and ethical environment in which to work and receive care.

Who is exempt from ART?

All workforce members are required to complete ART except for:

  • Texas Children’s new employees (including Texas Children’s physicians) who were hired after January 1, 2015.
  • Physicians, residents, fellows, dentists, podiatrists and licensed Ph.D. Psychologists not employed by Texas Children’s.

Current completion percentages


To access the course follow the steps below:

  1. Click on the ‘Annual Required Training / HealthStream’ link on the Connect homepage under the ‘Quick Links’ heading.
  2. Log-in to HealthStream.
  3. Click on the ‘Continue’ box.
  4. Click on the ‘My Learning’ tab.
  5. Find and click on the course title:
    1. TCH 2015 Annual Required Training
    2. TCP 2015 Annual Required Training
  6. There are three learning activities that must be completed: online module, test, acknowledgement. Click the first activity listed to start the online course.
  7. Click on the ‘Launch the Course’ link to start the online module.

Houston Texans Randy Bullock and Ben Jones, TORO and Houston Texans Cheerleaders visited patients who are battling cancer at Texas Children’s Hospital in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The visitors donned gold pins and sported gold pompoms, symbolizing childhood cancer awareness, while participating in games and taking photos with patients. View event photos by clicking on the photo above.

September 15, 2015

Every summer, Texas Children’s staff and their patients make the 90-mile trek to Camp for All, a 100-acre, barrier-free recreational facility that enables children with special needs to experience the thrill of camping just like normal kids their age.

“It’s a place where they feel safe and comfortable because everyone is just like them,” said Texas Children’s Neurology Chief Dr. Gary Clark, who is the lead physician at Camp Spike N Wave. “In partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation, we provide the medical infrastructure so children can have a safe camping experience, while doing everything that anybody would do in any other camp.”

Wheelchair bound or not, children engage in a fun-filled week of adrenaline-pumping activities like zip lining, rock wall climbing, swimming, horseback riding, archery, rope courses, basketball, and canoeing in a lake. They build friendships and unleash their independent spirit, while focusing less on their illness or physical disabilities.

Texas Children’s oncologist Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer is the medical director for Camp Periwinkle. She and her staff collaborate with the Periwinkle Foundation to bring more than 185 patients from Texas Children’s Cancer Center to camp each summer.

“Often times, our patients are marked by their cancer,” Dreyer said. “Being in the normal environment can be really tough for them. Here at camp, the playing field is equal for everyone.”

Camps like Camp Periwinkle and Camp Spike N Wave would not be possible without the diligent efforts of Texas Children’s own, Dr. Robert Zeller, chief of the Blue Bird Clinic, who collaborated with other physicians to create Camp for All in 1993.

“I had a patient with epilepsy who couldn’t go to camp because camps wouldn’t accept children with this condition,” Zeller said. “This prompted me to develop a camp for children with medical and physical challenges where they can discover life without barriers. It’s my way of giving back to my patients.”