We owe our origins to nurses, and nurse May Smith in particular. In the spring of 1913, she and a group of nurses organized the Dallas Baby Camp, recognizing that children receive better care when it is focused on them. Some 100 years later, more than 5 million children have been helped because of their vision.
Today, the nearly 1,800 nurses at Children’s Medical Center play an essential role in fulfilling the hospital’s mission and establishing Children’s as one of the nation’s premier pediatric hospitals.
Thanks to our nurses, Children’s joined a distinguished list in 2009 when we were designated as a Magnet organization – the highest national recognition granted to a hospital or medical center for excellence in nursing. This gold standard is given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association and the largest and most prestigious nurses credentialing organization.
Children’s nurses take a patient-and family-centered approach to the delivery of care for our patients, and this philosophy is reflected in daily clinical practice – from providing diagnosis information to preparing children for procedures and giving in-depth medication instructions.
Chief Nursing Officer Mary Stowe: Carrying on a mission with a smile
Few high school students would trade their summers – nights especially – to work as a nursing assistant bathing patients, emptying bedpans and taking vital signs. But Mary Stowe reveled in being immersed in her community hospital in Harlingen, Texas as a teenager.
“My father instilled a passion for medicine in me,” Stowe recalls. “Even though he never formally studied it, he had a huge medical book that he’d read, and in the mornings when I got home from my night shift, we’d talk over breakfast about everything I’d seen and done.”
So when Stowe headed for Baylor University, a medical career was a given. And in the 30 years since she chose nursing over medical school, Stowe, RN, MS, NEA-BC, has amassed an impressive biography, now serving Children’s as VP and Chief Nursing Officer.
Early in her professional training, it was all about learning how to give care, including interning at Children’s. “I found that at Children’s I could take care of every type of patient – from babies to adolescents, those with cancer or pulmonary issues and at any level of acuity,” she says. “I was gaining critical thinking skills while achieving this huge skill set. I loved it.”
In fact, she loved Children’s so much that as her career advanced and took her to other hospitals and more and more promotions, Children’s would pull her back. Not once, but twice, she left only to return to the place where she believes children and their families are truly at the center of care.
As she reflects on her career, which recently includes being named one of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council’s Great 100 Nurses, Stowe feels she is helping to carry on the tradition of visionary nurses like May Smith, our founder.
“May was an innovator and a problem solver who recognized that babies were different from adults. She was not afraid to take risks, and she did it with grace and professionalism,” says Stowe. “My emphasis is also about building relationships to take care of children.”
Adds Stowe, smiling: “If I could, I’d like to ask her, ‘How am I doing?’ Wouldn’t that be an interesting conversation?”
Nurse Practitioner Kristin Hittle finds her calling
Kristin Hittle, RN, CPNP-AC, CCRN, always knew that helping others was the most important thing she could do. As she considered higher education and a career, her choices boiled down to nursing or social work.
“Once I knew that I could stand the sight of blood,” she says, “My decision was made.”
A high school community service project in the adult trauma unit of the emergency room cinched it. A few years later, when a college internship in pediatric cardiology introduced her to working with children, she realized her true calling, and her path as a pediatric nurse was set … almost.
“I was working and attending graduate school in Philadelphia, and one of the choices for rotations was at Children’s Medical Center. They offered me a position and I joined, largely because of the level of patient care and outstanding group of advanced practice providers here.”
That was in 2008. While Hittle loved being a nurse, spending long periods of time – often months – with the same patients, she wanted to be more of a care manager. Today, caring for children continues to be Hittle’s calling, but now as a nurse practitioner in the pediatric neurosurgery and trauma intensive care, a position that involves working with a team of physicians and health care providers.
“It requires a lot of collaboration on a lot of issues. While being a nurse practitioner can be challenging, we train with the UT Southwestern residents and fellows. We learn from them and vice versa. We’re all thinking and learning about new things, but as nurse practitioners we have to be both patient- and family-focused. I really value that relationship.”
Hittle’s not yet done with her nursing education. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in nursing, focusing on the still relatively new impact of pediatric nurse practitioner outcomes in a hospital setting.
“Delivery of quality care is taking on a new meaning,” she says. “I can hardly begin to comprehend the changes in medicine and technology over the last 100 years. Trying to anticipate what is to come is so exciting.”
Nurse Jenn Sheiner: Night angel
With a bachelor’s degree in health care administration, Jenn Sheiner was primed to begin her career on the business side of health care. As part of an internship in 1999, she volunteered in the playroom of the Oncology floor at Children’s.
At first she was intimidated because she just wasn’t used to seeing children with IV poles at their sides and no hair. But Sheiner quickly realized, “these are normal kids just having a good time.” Something inside her pulled at her and kept her going back.
Sheiner soon realized that she had missed her calling. “I watched the nurses come in and out to check on and help the kids, and loved interacting with the patients and families. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a nurse at Children’s.”
So she returned to school to become a nurse, and today works at Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders as a certified pediatric oncology nurse where she now delivers the kind of care she first witnessed in that playroom 14 years ago.
The work can be overwhelming, but there are many triumphs and joys. Most rewarding are the relationships she forms with children and their families. It’s not unusual for staff to spend months with them as they go through their treatment.
When Sheiner was a relatively new nurse, a 13-year-old girl and her family touched Sheiner deeply. The patient had multiple health issues that required care throughout much of Sheiner’s late-night shifts.
In those early morning hours, Sheiner would spend 30 minutes at her bedside, having quiet conversations with the brave young girl. They discussed many things during those 2 a.m. chats, especially the feelings a young person has when fighting cancer.
Sadly, the disease ultimately won. When Sheiner attended her funeral, the patient’s father read a letter the girl had written. “She called me her ‘night angel,’ and she thanked me for the care I’d given and what it meant to her,” recalled Sheiner. “What she didn’t know is how much I learned from her.”