August 11, 2006

Children’s Hospital seeking input from families

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Teri Edmonson, a member of the Family Advisory Council and a part-time employee of Children's Hospital, speaks at a new-staff orientation.
Photo by Susan Urmy

Children’s Hospital seeking input from families

The Family Advisory Council (FAC) at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt is looking for families of patients who have recently spent time at Children's Hospital to become involved with the group.

The council advises, informs and works with the administrative and medical leadership at Children's Hospital, and, at monthly meetings, discusses ways to improve the patient and family experience.

Members of the FAC gave substantial input during the planning and design of the new Children's Hospital, which opened in 2004.

"The Family Advisory Council has been around for a long time, but with the new hospital, our role has changed and we are looking to increase participation by families of patients who have had a hospital stay since the new hospital opened," said Monica Urness, chair of the FAC.

Urness joined the council several years ago after her son, Devin, was successfully treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Devin underwent more than three years of chemotherapy treatment, and had several hospital stays. Ten years later, Devin is now a healthy 15-year-old.

Each month, a member of the FAC speaks during Children's Hospital's new employee orientation. Members often pass around pictures of their children and tell of their personal experiences at Children's Hospital. According to David Gregory, administrative director for Clinical Support Services, this has been a very effective way for new staff to learn how to be sensitive to the needs of patients and families.

"Having a member of the Family Advisory Council talk during the new staff orientation has been very effective," Gregory said. "I'm thrilled with their involvement in our orientation and in other initiatives to help make Children's Hospital more accommodating to families."

Gregory also said the council recently provided input regarding a new late-night food service for families. Families now can purchase food for several hours after the Children's Way Cafe vendors close each evening.

Their input was beneficial in creating an in-room guide, which is an informational notebook for families found in each patient room.

The FAC also provided valuable input for the welcome video each family watches upon being admitted. They've even provided real-life scenarios to be used in the training of pediatric residents.

The FAC currently has approximately 10 active members, who typically serve three-year terms, and Urness would like to double membership to 20.

Currently, the council is working to add soap and shampoo dispensers in the showers on some of the patient floors. Parents often face unexpected hospital stays with their child, and may need basic necessities.

"I hope we can continue to build an important relationship between the hospital and family members so families who have gone through a crucial experience with their child know that they have a voice and a place to go to make a difference," Urness said.

For information about joining the FAC, contact Urness at 298-5096 or