St. Louis, Missouri - St. Louis Children's Hospital
John, a public safety officer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH), teaches himself
basic communication phrases in a plethora of languages so that everyone entering the hospital
feels welcomed, regardless of language utilized. Julie and her lovable black lab, Izzy, console
five siblings who have just learned that their baby brother is nearing the end of his life. Candy, a
lovely volunteer, rounds on families in the pediatric intensive care unit to supply supportive
resources, an open ear, and a caring heart. Participating in these and a multitude of other
experiences during my summer with the Center for Families has translated the theoretical
concept of patient and family-centered care, which comprised the foundation of my summer
project, into real practice in my own life.
The impetus behind the Center for Families arose from feedback from patients and
families, who continually state that “care, communication, resources and access are inconsistent
and increasingly complex to navigate across my experience at SLCH.” Creation of a Center for
Families, which represents a partnership-based approach to providing collaborative,
compassionate, and supportive family resources, will allow SLCH to close the gap in the
effective provision of patient and family-centered care.
To achieve this goal, I helped construct a five-year strategic funding plan to submit to the
SLCH Foundation. Such an overwhelming task was defined through four focus areas: (1)
Patient Experience,(2) Education, Innovation and Research,(3) Patient and Family Resilience,
and (4) Patient and Family Quality and Safety. My team and I partnered with over 22 departments
hospital-wide (Child Life, Social Work, etc.) to ascertain their visions for the next five years, so
that we could best accommodate their needs in the funding plan. Additionally, I conducted
fieldwork through site visits at three premier pediatric hospitals across the country. It was
inspiring and humbling to discover the incredible work that peer institutions are doing, and my
findings, in turn, enhanced the SLCH five-year plan. Forming connections with leaders also
provides avenues through which SLCH can benchmark as the Center for Families grows and
evolves in the future.
What I will take away from this project is not refining nitty gritty budget details, nor
strategizing with top children’s hospitals. It is bringing a smile to the face of a child with a
hearing impairment upon greeting her in sign language, lighting up a room with joy or providing
comfort during a pet therapy visit, and lending a listening ear to families during personal rounds
and weekly lunches. It is the extraordinary empathy developed and connections formed from a
shift in perspective, such that patients and families are not solely defined by a condition, case
number, or anticipated cost. The stories shared, wisdom imparted, and lessons inculcated through
my time at SLCH will remain at the forefront of my mind as I embark on my journey to become
a pediatrician. Only through partnering and remaining fully engaged with every patient and
family that I encounter will I serve as a guardian of childhood.
Pictured here is a goofy picture of my team at the surprise baby sprinkle we threw for my boss!