May 6, 2019

In recognition of National Nurses Week, Chief Nursing Officer Mary Jo Andre shares and encourages our team of more than 3,000 nurses to take time to celebrate the amazing work they do for our patients and their families. In this spotlight video, we that celebrates our nursing team’s dedication, their accomplishments and continued leadership in helping advance Texas Children’s advance its mission in patient care, education and research. More

On April 26, Texas Children’s Child Life Department hosted its second annual hospital prom. The prom brought together patients, friends and family members to celebrate this important life event. Following such a successful turnout for the inaugural event last year, this year’s event grew thanks to the generous support of donors and volunteers.

Prom is just one of the many milestone events in a teenager’s life that every child longs to experience.

Donned with masks, a little makeup, and music, inpatients and outpatients at Texas Children’s Hospital were able to experience this monumental occasion on-site at the Medical Center campus.

“Creating opportunities for patients and their families to make positive memories that they may not have had otherwise is extremely fulfilling,” Event co-chair Activity Coordinator, Brandi Clark said. “We loved getting to see patients have the experience to feel confident, beautiful, handsome, and special while having the night of their lives. It was all we could ever ask for and is exactly what makes us passionate about our jobs as activity coordinators.”

While patients were getting their fabulous prom makeovers and putting on glamorous gowns and tuxedos, the fourth floor Pavilion for Women conference room was turned into the perfect masquerade-themed setting. Child Life partnered with several donors to provide formal wear for all patients who participated.

As patients began to arrive with their friends and family, members of the local coastguard greeted them at the door to escort patients without dates for a night to remember. Some parents tearfully said their goodbyes as they dropped their teens off, while others stayed and enjoyed themselves in the lobby outside of the room where prom was held. The family section included movies, games, and refreshments to entertain parents and siblings while the prom goers enjoyed much needed time with their friends.

Inside the prom palace along the wall lied delectable pastries and punch for the teens to indulge in along with t-shirts that they could take as memorable gifts. When patients walked into the room they were instantly drawn to the photo booth. For a moment, pictures with friends and entertaining props gained everyone’s attention until the DJ began to play all of the latest hits and dance songs that drew everyone to the dance floor.

“Personally seeing some of my chronic patients and families experience a night of normalcy at prom- dancing, singing, laughing, and dressing up has made prom better than we could have hoped for,” Event co-chair Activity Coordinator Zoie Drake said. “We loved that as Activity Coordinators we were able to create a space where so many of our patients and their friends could connect and feel like regular teenagers.”

For hours into the night the teens danced, sang, ate and laughed. With nearly 80 participants this year, the event turned out to be better than expected and has paved the way for a more extravagant event next year.

“Seeing our patients in a new light dressed up, dancing, making new friends that are also in the hospital was one of the most rewarding parts about planning prom,” Event co-chair Activity Coordinator Megan Ekedahl said. “We look forward to this event growing with the Texas Children’s Hospital patient population and have prom be something patients and families talk about and look forward to year after year.”

Patient Experience Week 2019 sailed off effortlessly with more than 600 patients, families and employees in attendance. From April 22 to April 26, these fun and engaging nautical-themed activities at Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center Campus, Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands were specifically designed to celebrate and emphasize our focus on patient experience as we continue to strive for excellent patient-centered care.

At the beginning of the week for the second consecutive year, the Patient Experience team opened the Compassion Challenge to employees. During Patient Experience Week, staff and providers across the organization completed a challenge that focused on the concepts of compassion, communication and connectedness. Amongst the 348 employees that registered and completed the compassion challenge, Mary Hatchett and Elyssa Blum were chosen as the winners of two tickets aboard a lunch cruise on The Boardwalk FantaSea, a luxury yacht located in Kemah, Texas that sails off later this summer.

The first portion of the Patient Experience Week celebration was the Caught You Caring (CYC) Awards ceremonies held at each hospital to recognize our 2019 recipients who have gone above and beyond to show compassion to our patients, families and co-workers.

“I was honored to be recognized during the Caught You Caring awards ceremony,” Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurse at the Woodlands Campus, Jennifer Grubbs said. “I was surrounded by so many others who were recognized, and deserving as well. I was humbled to hear such kind words shared by families and co-workers, and how I have impacted their experience in our surgery department in The Woodlands. I truly love what I do every day, and enjoy making a positive impact for a worried parent, or anxious child.”

The CYC program’s idea was brought to life after a physician read a heartfelt letter written by the mother of one of our patients. She described the care and compassion her whole family received during her son’s admission. Since then, CYC was conceptualized, piloted in our surgery areas in 2015, and has been launched system-wide with more than 10,000 CYC cards received to date. CYC boxes are located throughout all campuses so that anyone can recognize a staff member or a colleague.

A panel of judges scored each nomination to select the top employees who are as follow:

Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center Campus winners:

  • Xavier George, PCA, Ambulatory Surgery
  • Calvin Haskett, USA waste removal, EVS
  • Ashly Swaty, PCM, PICU
  • Carmen Vela, ASR, Plastic Surgery
  • Honorable mentions: Wanda Diaz-Gonzalez, Kandi Korte-Kidd, Stephanie Portillo, Mary Vail, Maria Olfindo

Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women winners:

  • Shamika Jenkins, clerical secretary, Surgery
  • Roxanna Miremadi, sonographer, Women’s Services

Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus winners:

  • Almea Montillo, PCM, 5West
  • Kristi White, respiratory therapist, respiratory care
  • Honorable mentions: Mary Ann Callejo, Roy Chicombing, Naomi Cockerham, Amanda Gonzalez, Jonathan Miller, Martin Romualdo, Marie Sayles, Sygnore Valdeavilla

Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands winners:

  • Jennifer Grubbs, RN, Surgery
  • Juan Flores, x-ray tech, radiology
  • Honorable mentions: Javier Blanco-Rais, JesVon Davis, Ashley Hanley, Ana Mauricio, Clari Scota, Lindsey Zaremba

Patient Experience Week bridge events were also held at each campus. As people approached the bridge events they were given leis to kick off their experience, and led through a sea of engaging activities. Departments from across the hospital were given the opportunity to make creative nautical-themed booths. A friendly competition led 35 departments to host their best themed-activity tables to create fun interactions for our patients. Music, games, snacks, costumes, props, and even bubbles were just a few of the interactive ways that employees grabbed the attention of patients and the bridge event judges.

The departments with the best tables during the Patient Experience Week bridge events will be announced in the upcoming Patient Experience newsletter and awarded a special prize.

The mission that care at Texas Children’s goes beyond the bedside was displayed during Patient Experience Week 2019 as the team took employees, patients and families to sea in this amazingly creative theme. Patient experience ultimately goes beyond the high-quality medical care that we provide, but also has to do with how we treat our patients and their families from the moment they call to schedule an appointment, while they are visiting with us, and to the point they leave our care.

“This year’s participation was incredible. The compassion and commitment shown for our patients and their experience was felt all around,” Patient Experience Assistant Director, Elisa Mozley said. “Many families and employees stopped to share how impactful these celebrations are to them – the joy it brought them. It is everything we hope to accomplish each year during this time.”

Texas Children’s Emergency Management and Bone Marrow Transplant teams recently conducted their first full-scale radiation injury treatment exercise partnering with outside agencies to simulate their roles in a radiation-related event.

As a member of the Radiation Injury Treatment Network (RITN), Texas Children’s conducts annual exercises as part of our emergency preparedness activities. RITN is a system of hospitals affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program providing comprehensive evaluation and treatment for victims of radiation exposure. MD Anderson Cancer Center is the only other RITN member organization in the Greater Houston area.

“Over the past three years, the Emergency Management team at Texas Children’s has worked closely with the Radiation Injury Treatment Network to increase the fidelity and realism of the drills we have been conducting,” said Dr. Brent Kaziny, Medical Director of Emergency Management. “Developing plans for such hopefully never-in-our-lifetime events is one of the many responsibilities of Emergency Management. Seeing plans tested first as tabletop drills and eventually as full scale exercises allow us to pinpoint where improvements need to be made. Texas Children’s Hospital has come so far, and watching these plans become operational is extremely rewarding.” 

Texas Children’s Emergency Management Manager Aaron Freedkin agreed and said if there was a radiation event nearby, Texas Children’s would get many of the affected pediatric patients.” 

“That’s why it’s so important for us to practice and prepare for such an event,” Freedkin said. “Last week’s exercise gave us a great opportunity to do that.”

The seven-hour event was the first full-scale radiation injury treatment exercise the organization has participated in and tested our response following the mock detonation of an improvised nuclear device that sends patients requiring bone marrow transplant or supportive medical care to Houston by way of the National Disaster Medical System.

The exercise involved various outside local, state and federal agencies including the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, Veteran’s Affairs, and American Medical Response. The exercise began at Ellington Field, a joint military and civilian airport that would host the Patient Reception Center during a large-scale disaster. Run by the Veteran’s Affairs Federal Coordinating Center, the center would receive patients from outside Houston and coordinate available local resources.

Texas Children’s Bone Marrow Team Member Dr. John Craddock said understanding who the local players are and how to work with them is a great addition to the annual exercise, which typically has been a tabletop exercise with the exception of last year when it expanded to a large scale functional exercise involved Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands.

“This year, the exercise was full scale, giving us a more realistic idea of what we would be dealing with,” Craddock said. “I think it was very informative.”

During the exercise, Craddock and another members of the Bone Marrow Transplant team helped receive, triage and assign for transport to area hospitals 50 mock pediatric patients and 50 adult patients. The pediatric patients at Ellington Field were played by high school students from Friendswood High School. The adult patients at Ellington Field were played by adult volunteers from various civic groups including Bay CERT, a local Community Emergency Response Team.

The second half of the exercise took place on the fourth floor of the Pavilion for Women, part of which was turned into a Patient Reception Center for the patients coming to Texas Children’s Hospital for evaluation and/or treatment. Those mock patient and their family members were played by DeBakey High School students and saw members of our pathology, chaplain, social work, patient experience and case management teams before being transferred to a patient care room if necessary.

“This is the first time we’ve simulated going from plane to hospital,” said James Mitchell director of Organizational Resilience and Emergency Management. “Going through the entire process really expanded our knowledge about how this would work.”

April 30, 2019

Regem Biyo shares how grateful she is to begin her nursing career at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and how the organization is helping her grow in her new role. Read more

April 29, 2019

Dozens of families recently attended the first ever HEAR Houston Resource Fair, presented by Texas Children’s Audiology Program.

HEAR (Hearing Education, Awareness and Resources) Houston – held in collaboration with the Division of Otolaryngology and the Speech, Language and Learning Clinic – was designed to bring families of children living with hearing loss together, and to educate them about some of the numerous resources, programs and services available in the greater Houston area.

“Sometime such tremendous focus is placed on providing the right diagnosis and identifying the right treatment path for a child that is deaf or hard of hearing that care givers might discount the fact that the parents need help too,” said Dr. Wendy Steuerwald, director of Audiology at Texas Children’s. “We wanted to comprehensively highlight resources that both our patients and parents have benefited from, bring them here to Texas Children’s, and give people an opportunity to connect with one another and get the information they need.”

HEAR Houston featured more than a dozen vendors and exhibitors, selected with input from Texas Children’s audiologists and patient families. These vendors offered expertise and guidance on a broad spectrum of interrelated services and resources, including:

  • The latest in hearing aids, cochlear implants and caption telephones
  • Community outreach programs
  • Parent support groups
  • Educational audiology and services in schools
  • Speech-Language therapy
  • Deaf education
  • The transition from pediatric to adult audiology

The event also featured programs at Texas Children’s, including upWORDS – designed to help parents learn how to improve their child’s early language – and the Speech, Language and Learning Clinic, which provides evaluation, management and consultation for infants, children, adolescents and adults who have problems with communication, learning, feeding and swallowing.

The offering of resources was so comprehensive, even the vendors were impressed.

“Texas Children’s staff and physicians provided a wonderful venue for learning what resources are available for children who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Sara Smith from Guide By Your Side™ – a family support program offered by Texas Hands & Voices™ that pairs families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing with trained parent guides who have walked in their shoes and can share their experiences, as well as direct families to information and resources. “It was truly wonderful to see ‘the village’ coming together – with so many support agencies, technology companies and educational programs present – to ensure each unique child has the opportunity to reach their potential.”

The response has been extremely positive. Plans are already being made to make HEAR Houston an annual event. But one of the most exciting developments is a plan to create a parent support group.

“To feel successful raising a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, parents seek the advice of other parents in similar situations – they want to interact with and learn from them,” Steuerwald said. “Our goal with this event was really to build a community. A support group will allow parents to socialize their children with other children with similar conditions, and it will continue to foster parent-to-parent education and discussion.”

Ella Grace Hurlbut, who was born prematurely at 27 weeks and who passed away at just 50 days old, has been the catalyst for bringing joy out of sorrow – most recently at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. Little Ella was the first neonatal intensive care unit baby that nurse Christina Snell cared for who passed away.

“I had a really hard time with it, and I didn’t know what to do with the pain that was having,” Snell said. “So, I decided I would do something good with it.”

That “something good” has culminated in the opening of a bereavement room called the Garden Room at The Woodland’s NICU. Designed by Snell and funded by her parents, Steve and Tammy Barr, the room is a non-sterile, peaceful environment where families have the chance to spend extra time saying goodbye to their child. The room also can be used by families who are getting used to caring for their MICU baby’s needs before going home.

Similar to the Butterfly Room at Main Campus’s NICU, the Garden Room features a crib, couch, two gliders, a chest full of clothes to dress their little ones in and a Caring Cradle. Donated by the Hurlbut family, the cradle cools a baby’s body after passing, therefore prolonging the amount of time a family can spend with their baby.

“Christina helped us make molds of Ella’s hands and feet, and to this day, those are my most treasured possessions,” Katie Hurlbut said. “I knew it wasn’t a coincidence when we found out she was the one leading the development of the bereavement room in The Woodlands.”

In addition to the Caring Cradle, the Hurlbut family also donated stuffed bears, clothes and linens to the Garden Room. Two artists, Alicia Kowalki “Los Queridos” and Genie Mack, provided beautiful pieces for the room’s walls.

“We are extremely thankful for the time and effort of those who contributed to this special space,” said Susan Romero, assistant clinical director of the NICU in The Woodlands. “It will give many families a great sense of peace.”