Together, We Are the Patient Experience

April 23-28 is Patient Experience Week, a time to celebrate all Children’s of Alabama staff impacting patient experience every day. Children’s joins the Beryl Institute in defining the patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Every employee, physician and volunteer at Children’s impacts the patient and family experience. From Child Life to Information Technology to Guest Services and beyond, together, we are the patient experience.

Throughout the week, we will share stories from employees across the hospital who make the patient experience great. Each of the employees featured here contributes to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of impact and inspiration.

André Green, Lead Coordinator Web Applications, 15 Years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Fortuitous circumstances. I actually had my first experience working at Children’s as a freelancer assisting with the annual service awards event with an outside contractor. Those professional connections I made during that time led me to the organization when a position became available as a web designer/developer within the corporate communications and marketing department.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you? How do you impact the patient experience?

I’ve been inspired by the Children’s of Alabama patients in both expected and unexpected ways over my time here. The trials and tribulations that I have witnessed and those miraculous stories of overcoming are what you come to expect of a hospital that cares for children. However, it’s the resiliency and strength that is the unexpected part; the smiles, the light, and in some cases, the sadness that may accompany medical and personal situations. We go from tears to cheers on a daily basis, from the big wins to the small wins and everything in between. And for me, witnessing this in my career at Children’s has been all inspiring.

For my little part in the grand scheme of things, I believe having the responsibility of managing our website(s) and making them the best that we can impacts the patient experience. The website, in many cases, serves as the very first connection point that a patient or patient family may have with our organization. It is the digital face of Children’s of Alabama. Whether our visitors are looking for immediate care, physician references, education or something as simple as directions to an appointment; the website plays a part in that patient experience and thus I have a part to play as well.

Deanna Miller, Quality Improvement Manager, 23 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

A desire for professional growth led me to Children’s of Alabama. I was working in a reference laboratory as a microbiologist and I wanted to gain more experience in other types of laboratories and other disciplines of the clinical laboratory. Children’s of Alabama offered me that opportunity as a generalist medical technologist, where I gained experience in hematology, chemistry, immunohematology, and microbiology.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you?

Children’s patients inspire me every day because I know our patients’ satisfaction is the key to overcoming or effectively managing any adversity affecting their health. Positive patient experiences that provide meaningful engagement empowers patients and patient families in health care decisions and, ultimately, set the patient on the right path to achieve better outcomes.

Jill Smith, Director of Hearing and Speech, 23 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

When I was in college, I watched the building of Children’s South. I had no idea what services would be offered at Children’s South or the nature of work that would be done there. I just KNEW I wanted to work there and at Children’s. I was drawn to a career path that worked with people and children, and I fell into audiology during my last quarter at Auburn University. Fortunately, I completed my graduate internship at Children’s, and a job as an audiologist opened. I’ve had several roles at Children’s for the past 23 years and wouldn’t trade it for anything!

How do you impact the patient experience?

As a director, I rarely participate in direct patient care. However, I do get to see families in the clinic halls and talk to them (or when people need directions around the organization). I LOVE when kids “accidentally” come into my office, mistaking me for the exit! Having interactions with families is a highlight of my day. In my role, I have the opportunity to highlight families to the foundation, media, and community resources, and connect families to one another. Knowing that I continue to serve patients indirectly fills my drive to help, treat, and care for them. Also, hearing the stories from staff on their journey with patients gives me great satisfaction knowing advocating for purchasing equipment, materials, supplies, extra iPads and more, has touched and changed lives for good!

William Weaver, Instructional Systems Technologist II, 3 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

The COVID-19 pandemic was a big reason I came to Children’s. I had applied to work here before the pandemic started, but the opportunity presented itself after a few months into the pandemic. Things fell into place, and I was put in a position where it was the right place and the right time. A few years later, I am so happy to be here.

What do you want each patient to know and feel when they come through the doors at Children’s of Alabama?

I know hospitals can be a scary place, for both adults and children, but especially children. I would like each patient to know that we will do our best to take the “scariness” out of their hospital visit. We do this by providing happiness and joy through events like the Children’s of Alabama Thanksgiving Day “parade” and Tele-Santa. Also, we help keep their minds busy before surgery and other procedures with interactive games utilizing projectors, cameras and fish and bubble “walls.” My hope is that even though it could be the worst day of their life, we can do something to brighten their day. At the end of the day, it is all about helping the children. That is why we are here and why we do what we do.

Irsia “Sissi” Castrejon, Language Services Coordinator, 7 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

I moved to Birmingham and was looking for a fulfilling job in healthcare. I found a position available here in the language services department and I thought it was a perfect place to further my career while being able to help my community at the same time.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I work diligently on a daily basis to facilitate effective communication between our limited English-proficient patients and families and Children’s staff by coordinating language needs with available interpreting resources.

Laura Lee Baldwin, Guest Services, 10 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

I spent a lot of time here when I was younger. I had a few surgeries at Children’s related to my cerebral palsy. I came to a lot of clinic appointments as well as physical and occupational therapy appointments. I was also a volunteer; I have always loved interacting with and helping people.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I interact with patients when I’m working at the information desk. At the desk, I mainly assist patient families and friends getting checked in and make sure it is the smoothest experience possible for them, so they can focus on their child. Sometimes, I help guide people around the hospital by taking them to their appointments and it helps them feel less stressed. Lastly, I have the opportunity to deliver packages, gifts and mail to patients and it is a joy to see the smile on their faces.

Val Slater, Nurse Clinician, Clinic 8, 32 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Since I was 7 years old, I always wanted to be a nurse, and that desired dream never changed. I just had a love for caring for people. What led me to a career at Children’s in 1990 was after my pediatric ­­­rotation on 4West. The nurses there were so loving and passionate toward the kids, and I have such a big heart for children. Prior to my rotation, I had put in applications at Children’s but never got a call back. On my last day of my rotation, I mentioned to Mrs. Johnson (one of the nurses) that I had put in applications but never got a response, and I really want to work at Children’s. She took my name and phone number and told me that she would give it to her director (Bonnie Barnett). The next day, I received a call from Mrs. Barnett, had my interview, and was hired the very next day. That is God putting the right people in my space, and I knew then this is where the Lord wanted me to be and still going strong 32 years later.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I try to make each patient feel as comfortable as possible. Being in the hospital can make anyone feel uneasy, especially children. I try to focus their mind on other things that are pleasant or comforting. I find out what they are interested in, and I listen to them. I will even sing, dance, play games or walk around with them if it helps get their mind off their hospital stay. Because I have built a relationship with them, it makes me feel really good inside when they see me, give me a hug and a smile. This is how I know that I have made a good impact on them.

Sarah Schaeffer, Child life specialist, 6 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

For most of my life, I have been drawn towards working with children in some capacity. I was torn between a career in medicine or education and found my perfect middle ground in the field of child life. I moved to Birmingham after finishing my master’s degree in child life in New York and began volunteering at Children’s shortly after relocating. I recognized what a special and unique place Children’s is and was able to solidify a child life specialist position when the time was right.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I currently work in outpatient radiology, which, like most places in the hospital, can be overwhelming and frightening at times. As a child life specialist, I have the pleasure of helping patients and families navigate the stressors of diagnostic imaging. I always tell my patients, “No one likes surprises at the doctor or the hospital, and I want to make sure you, as the patient, understand what to expect.” I work to decrease the fear and anxiety patients experience by providing developmentally appropriate education and preparation, positive coping techniques, support, and distraction. I work closely with the medical team, which allows me to advocate for my patients and families while also acting as a two-way bridge of communication, which is crucial. I strive to help patients and families master their hospital experience to give them a sense of control and empowerment. I feel honored and fortunate to have such an impactful role in so many patients’ and families’ healthcare journeys at Children’s of Alabama.

Clinton Maddox, Security Officer, 4 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Former Security Director, Michael McCall, led me to Children’s. Shortly after his arrival here, Mr. McCall asked me to come work for him. He would always tell me how much he loved Children’s and enjoyed working here every day. Finally, after a few years, I joined him in 2019 and have loved it ever since.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you?

Seeing all the smiling faces of patients, no matter the situation they’re going through reminds me to be grateful and inspires me to embrace every day that I have. The bravery patients face their situations with is unmatched. They may be little, but they are some of the strongest people.

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