Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lessons Learned from Childrens National Medical Center, Washington DC

Why a "well oiled machine run so well."

Monday evening  the sharp squeeks of sneakers moving, girls shouting and parents clapping came to a sudden stop, as did my heart, the moment I saw my daughter brought down hard in a battle for the basket ball, and heard the dull thud of her head hitting the hard wood floor.

In that moment, time was frozen in silence. Suddenly I was on the floor and holding her hand  and coaxing my evervescent, bubbly and talkative 14 year old to open her eyes and please talk to me.

Suddenly letting go of my hand, she lost consciousnes, and everything else blurred: EMT's loading her in an ambulance, following in a daze, in the ambulance, cringing at her jolting awake, gagging from the smelling salts. Like a soundtrack in a move, I heard the dreamy background whine of the sirens while the driver sliced right through rush hour traffic, delivering us to the hospital in what felt like 5 minutes and at the same time, like 5 hours.

The second the doors opened at Children's they were there, ready and anticipating our arrival, and I felt as though we had cleared a hurdle. I was met by a nurse who immediately linked me to a social services team member would be my liason throughout the trauma room experience. Once in the trauma room, she explained that she was there to answer any questions as needed regarding what was being done to help my daughter.

As I witnessed, first hand, the 7 or 8 members of the trauma team working in concert, I felt the first wisps of 'everything will be okay.'

I was both amazed and impressed at how each member diligently worked with a specific and fine tuned purpose, yet different from those working beside them.  At the same time, each member of the team was ultimately working towards a common goal - healing my daughter.

Like a well oiled machine with numerous moving parts, the entire team was focused on identifying the severity of my daughter's injury and doing whatever it took to fix what was going on.

The large, stop-watch type digital clock on the wall, started on her arrival, told me in 24 minutes she had been completly assessed, de-clothed and robed, IV inserted, oxygen hissing and assisting her breathing and she was on her way to radiology and a CT.

15 minutes later, in an ER slot, the soft hum and beeps reassured me my daughter was well monitored and anything that could happen would trigger an immediate alert to the trauma team and a speedy return to her room.

We were informed of what the CT revealed and asked if we had any questions. Once again on route, we were escorted behind my daughter's stretcher to her room for the night.

A med tech arrived and introduced herself, quickly and quietly took our daughter's vitals, all while politely explaining the room, where things were and how things worked. She then introduced my daughter's nurse for the evening. Like the next member of a relay team, Pam our nurse for the night, took the baton and continued with explaining what would happen throughout the evening and why it was needed.

Sheets and blankets appeared on the couch next to the bed, so I could stay with my daughter throughout the evening. Down the hall, in the patient's family waiting room there were computers and parents on line paying bills, or updating their relatives on their child's status. Vending machines provided healthy food choices for families 24 hours a day. Microwaves are available to heat food packed at home. Comfy couches for the exhausted to have a break, tables and chairs for a sibling doing homework, but able to be close to their ailing brother or sister.

On the way back to my daughter's room,  something was missing - and it hit me. Where was the all important "nurses station?" It had been replaced with efficient looking work stations between rooms. Instead of running back and forth alternating between entering information and caring for patients, any member of the team that supported your child need only step outside to update and pop back in as needed.

Walking those halls I was conscious of how grateful and lucky I was. My daughter was injured, but would be walking out of that hospital the very next day, confident she would soon be playing basketball, volleyball or lacrosse again after healing.

The majority of the Children's patients and families spend too many weeks or months there, battling tenacious, incideous diseases.

As they jiggled their babies walking the halls, fed their toddler in a crib type hospital bed or pulled their youngsters in bright red wagons provided by the hospital to the next room or therapy, I know I saw gratitude on those parent's faces.

If I were in their shoes, I would be grateful too.  I would be thankful I was in a hospital that took the time and effort to study and research how they could best help families in these situations.  I would be relieved to be in a place that strived to make the journey a little easier for those struggling with, and overwhelmed by, a disease that crept into their lives by invading their child's body.

From a business perspective everything made sense to me too. It must be much easier to work with a well rested and informed parent who didn't feel cut off from everything going on with their child's health.

I believe the positive attitude of their staff, rubs off on the patients and families, which in turn, re-inspires the staff.  The level of communication between every staff member I came in touch with was incredible. Walking through the halls I can't think of a time I passed someone with a bear on their shirt that didn't say hello or good morning.

There are many lessons to be learned from Childrens National Medical Center, ones that apply anywhere in life, your family, business, and friendships.

Children's National Medical Center recognizes the importance of feeling a part of the process, being communicated to in a direct and honest fashion, knowing the roles of all those involved, feeling welcomed, being provided the tools to do what you need to do, and ultimately, knowing someone understands, and there is a place to rest when it all gets a bit overwhelming.

From my perspective, I never want my daughter to be injured like that again, but if it happens, I know I am very lucky and grateful we live near the Children's National Medical Center.


ceaglin said...

What a tragedy for you and your family. I work at Children's National and was so moved by your story that I shared it on my Twitter and Facebook. Your story brought both tears of sadness and pride in what I and 5,000+ employees do here each and every day.

Thank you for taking the time to share your story, I have shared it with my entire staff. If you would like to communicate with other parents, we'd love to hear from you at This is a microsite we are setting up for new families to read about similar families experiences. God bless you, and your daughter.

Christina Eaglin-Hawthorne
Director, Interactive Communciations, Children's National Medical Center

Meglyn said...

Thank you. It is scary seeing your 'baby' on the hardwood floor and not responding. But in the end, we left the next day, she is recovering nicely from her sprained neck and concussion. It was her 2nd concussion in less than a month so that added to our stress level. But once there, you realize how lucky you are, there are so many there with much, much more going on - much more serious, long term, or incurable diseases.

You should be proud of where you work, you are a part of an incredible effort - one that puts the common good of their client base at the forefront of their decision making - and it shows, and it the end will be a great ROI.

Thanks for what you do every day.

BusyWorkingMom said...

My pleasure thank you Meglyn!