Face-to-Face with Our Mission
Employees Re-energized by Assisting Short-Staffed Areas
After dozens of employees reached out to senior leaders asking what they could do to help those areas of the hospital stressed by severe staffing challenges, Operation: One Cincinnati Children’s went live January 12. The effort has marked an all-hands-on-deck moment in our organization’s history, as hundreds in non-clinical roles have volunteered to perform tasks that allow our clinical staff to continue to provide the best-in-class care we’re known for around the world. In the first three weeks of the operation, more than 1,275 employees signed up to take on upwards of 7,200 work hours at our Burnet, Liberty and College Hill campuses. The favorite job—no surprise—is baby snuggling. Other duties that seemed they would be less popular, such as cleaning and direct patient observation, have brought in their fair share of volunteers as well. Every day more comments come in asking for the project to be a permanent part of operations. The impact, especially on the volunteers, has been remarkable.
Taylor Jenkins (second from right) spent her volunteer time playing with a charming little patient.
Twist of Fate
When Strategic Planner Taylor Jenkins showed up for her shift, she was prepared to clean and stock shelves, but she was asked to spend time with an infant on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit instead. Her Friday night became one she won’t soon forget.
She admitted she was a bit nervous to be placed with a baby, especially since it wasn’t the original plan. But then she met her patient. “He would look up at me with this big, gummy smile, and all those nerves just dissipated,” Jenkins said. “He would lean in, and his eyes were fixed on my face. I could tell it was something he needed.”
Jenkins had heard that being short-staffed has meant that staff haven’t been able to spend as much non-direct clinical time with patients like hers as they focus on essential care. “The nurses were so happy to see him happy and playing and snuggling,” she said. “We would play till he was worn out, then he’d fall asleep in my arms, then he’d wake up and we’d do it all over again.”
Earlier this fall, Taylor helped with the opening of Location G, which is where she found herself that Friday night with her patient. “It was so powerful to be in that space that not too long ago was empty, and to have watched it come together and see it now functioning as a temporary home,” she said.
Emotion filled her as she ended her shift. “I have worked at Cincinnati Children’s for 10 years, and I have never felt as connected to the mission as I did in those four hours,” she said. “He’s been in my thoughts since then, and he probably always will be in my thoughts.
“I will never ever forget those four hours. I’m filled with gratitude for the experience and fully intend to look for opportunities to volunteer beyond this effort,” she said.
Ambassador With a Broom
Ray Habib reported to Environmental Services with duties that included sweeping floors and wiping down moldings and pictures. The benefits manager in Human Resources found himself drawn even closer to his purpose on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day while lending a hand on A3, A4 and A5, and was left with a “satisfying soreness” for two days.
“I think 'benefits',” he said. “My goal is to get people the best possible benefits, the best employee experience. But I worked with Kristen [Webster], a consultant in Patient Safety. She was just so incredibly dedicated. It was open season on dust bunnies, and she was going to get every single one. And you think to yourself, I'm not really providing benefits for 16,000 employees, I'm providing benefits for 16,000 Kristens. I don't really know much about safety, accreditation and regulatory compliance, but hearing the things that she does, the hours she does it and how hard she works at it, just based on the dust bunnies she chased down, I can only imagine how much she improves our patient safety. So, it really energizes you. It makes you more diligent in your mission within the institution.”
He also discovered a deeper appreciation for the work that is performed by Environmental Services.
“There were places I was dusting, and I’m thinking to myself, there’s going to be a ton of dust here, right? It’s way back on top of the lockers. Yeah, nobody’s doing that climb up there. But somebody’s been there recently! So, whoever’s doing this as part of their normal job responsibilities really does a very good job,” he said.
Habib said his presence on the units gave him the chance to make a difference. “I had one mom who was clearly frustrated,” he said. “She couldn't find where her child was—I’m guessing it was her child—she didn't speak any English. And she didn't read any English. So, looking at the signs, even something as simple as hitting the button to open the door, you don't know what that button says.”
Habib read it for her, pressed the bell and talked to the nurse so that she could get in to see her loved one. “Now, to me, that’s a tiny little thing. But essentially, what you are is an ambassador with a broom.”
Ray Habib (left) and Raju Kunaparaju, lead technical analyst, Information Services, cleaned up on their shift.
Working with the littlest patients was an eye-opener for Valerine Rajathim.
A Personal Touch
Valerine Rajathim, research assistant III, Neurology, spends her days conducting experiments on conditions such as epilepsy. For someone whose main interactions on the job involve her lab mates, getting the opportunity to work with a little person is something to take advantage of. She was assigned to the Acute Care Cardiology Unit, where babies have recently had heart transplants and have many tubes. Becoming agitated poses high health risks. Her job was to keep babies calm. And although she signed up for this task, it wasn’t what she was expecting.
“When you see it [the patient care effort] face-to-face, it really means something different,” she said. “I work in research and do not get the face-to-face experience as much as I would like. This experience has been life changing.
“I loved being able to see the other side of research, the babies that we do it all for. At the end of the day, the [research] work we do isn’t about the publications and recognition. It’s about these kids.”