When families feel like their child’s care team is putting them first, they remember it.
At least that’s the case for more than 250 people who submitted nominations for Seattle Children’s 2017 Family Choice Awards. Each nomination came with a heart-touching story about a special staff or faculty member whose commitment to family-centered care sustained a family in the most difficult of circumstances.
The nominees were narrowed down to three winners by the Family Advisory Council, and Seattle Children’s pediatric residents also selected one of their peers for the Family Centered Care Award.
Dr. Jimmy Beck, Hospital Medicine
“We are so grateful that we landed in Dr. Beck’s care…We felt so supported and respected, and were treated as partners in our son’s journey to recovery. Even after Dr. Beck was off duty, he came back on his own time to check in on our son, a true testament to his investment in our son’s health.” —Nikki Cowling, parent
In his three years at Seattle Children’s, Beck has become known for his willingness to sit with patients and families as long as necessary to educate them and discuss their questions and concerns.
“I try to find out what really is important to families and consider their values and preferences in the way I approach them,” he said. “Then I share both sides of the coin when it comes to decision-making; we owe it to families to think of the downstream effects and offer education about them.”
As a hospitalist, Beck digs into many aspects of being in the hospital, from ensuring a child is getting the right level of care at the right time to bridging the patient back to their general pediatrician’s care. Because Beck only sees inpatients, the children often leave the hospital — and Beck’s care — very quickly. But he doesn’t see those bonds as weak.
“I think the relationships I form in a few days can be just as strong as pediatricians who see patients over a longer period. It’s amazing,” he said.
Dr. Nina Natarajan, Neurology
“When we first met Dr. Natarajan in the NICU, she took my hand, looked into my eyes and congratulated me on my beautiful baby. It was such a small act, but it was profound. It was the moment I realized I’m a mother and things might just turn out OK.” —Leigh Tribou, parent
Natarajan remembers that moment clearly.
“I talk to people at what is supposed to be a great time of their life, with a new baby and lots of plans for the future,” said Natarajan. “When things go a bit sideways, I still try to honor this time and help them be hopeful, even though they have a lot going on.”
Natarajan’s ability to see patients’ humanity before their diagnoses is well-known on the Neurology team. She works with both outpatients and inpatients, and she especially loves doing consults in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“When I’m doing a neuro exam with a toddler, so much of it is about how they interact with me,” said Natarajan.
For example, she checks a patient’s vision by seeing if their eye movements follow a toy she holds in her hand. For motor development, she uses an animal finger puppet to see whether the child can reach for it — or even make a noise that corresponds with the animal.
“I get a lot of information with a little interaction,” said Natarajan. “And playing normalizes the situation, which makes it seem less scary.”
Alicia Sevilla, child life specialist, Cancer and Blood Disorders Center
“Alicia has been a shining light during a time in our lives that is overwhelmingly dark. Our daughter is in cancer treatment, and Alicia has been invaluable to our experience from the beginning. We can’t say enough about the positive support she has given to our family.” —Jackie Johnson, parent
“I love providing strategies and watching families gain coping tools, then stepping away and knowing they are doing great on their own,” said Sevilla.
Sevilla sees families who are in the throes of a cancer diagnosis.
“They’re in trauma and unsure of how to ask questions or how to help their child in this environment,” said Sevilla. “I try to normalize the experience of being here and help them find ways to navigate this journey.”
Sevilla visits 10 to 15 kids in the outpatient clinics each day. She helps them understand the hospital, what a port is or how to swallow pills — whatever they need in the moment to feel more comfortable with their care.
Because Sevilla’s patients are in treatment for long periods, she finds it gratifying when their time at Seattle Children’s comes to a positive conclusion.
“My reward is seeing kids feeling better, playing, going back to school and eventually ending treatment,” she said.
Dr. Tim Savage, chief resident, Graduate Medical Education
“Tim commands the room. He has a way of simultaneously putting families at ease while conveying that he is in charge and has a plan. He meets his patients where they are and works with each individual to achieve the best outcome, whatever that may be.” —Dr. Ariana Witkin, resident
Savage was chosen for his award by his peers — other residents at Seattle Children’s — many of whom are inspired by his family-centered approach toward care.
As one of four chief residents, Savage supports 125 residents who are in various stages of training. His own training was filled with powerful moments that shaped his career.
“I remember a parent of an 18-year-old who was dying of cancer saying, ‘I know you can’t save her, but please do everything you can for the other kids here,’” he said.
Savage took that conversation to heart and believes it changed the way he cares for children.
“That young woman will always be with me, and I’ll think about her while I care for thousands more children in the years to come,” he said. “I think her parents would find solace in that.”
There are plenty of light-hearted memories, too. Savage finds it rejuvenating to spend time with patients and families, and enjoys starting non-medical conversations with kids.
“Parents brighten up when I stop to ask their child what’s important to them,” said Savage. “Whether it’s an ICU stay or a one-night admission, I know being here is disruptive. Working to understand the child better and how their family is feeling enable me to provide family-centered care.”