“Special Nurses for Unique Kids” is the forty-second episode of The College Handoff. This episode features Jessica Anderson and Wenden of Ivy Lane Pediatrics, two nurses specializing in pediatric home health. Also featured is Becky Oakley, founder of Brades’ Place, a pediatric palliative care organization.
While the nature of pediatric home health care may seem mysterious or unknown, it’s incredibly similar to adult home health care. “So what we do is go into homes of kids who are medically complex and take care of them. Some of them have twenty-four-hour coverage, and others, it’s eight hours,” Wenden explains. “So we go in and help the parents out. Whether during the day–sometimes they need to go to the store or more whatever–we’re there to help take care of their medical needs. Most of what we do is at night, so mom and dad can sleep, so they can get that rest and care for that kid during the day. What we do is try to focus on our patients and our employees first because that’s what we do. As we take care of the kids, most of our nurses become part of the family.”
Jessica, who primarily works night shifts, says, “It’s very intuitive, like what you would do caring for your children. You come in, and the kids need to be fed a lot of times. Many of our patients receive their nutrition through a gastric tube in their stomach. So it’s feeding and bathing and giving medications and sometimes doing breathing treatments, getting them ready for bed, putting their pajamas on, that type of thing, and just going through the nightly routine and giving the parents a break when they do a lot of the care on their own. We put them to bed. Sometimes they’re on ventilators or have an oximeter that monitors their oxygen throughout the night. So we monitor their vital signs and their breathing and make sure that everything is optimal so that they can get a good night’s rest and have good oxygenation to their brain while they sleep.”
Day shifts look drastically different from night shifts. This is because many of these medically complex children still attend school. “They still need that care. The schools can’t provide that for them, so they contract with us. So we go to school with them,” Wenden reveals. “So we get to go to their home about minutes before their bus picks them up, just to make sure they’re ready, get all their equipment together. We ride the bus with them to school, and we go to school with them. The nurse is just there primarily to care for the student. The teachers and the teacher aides will handle their education, but we handle their medical needs while they’re there. And then we ride the bus home with them, and we have about fifteen minutes to just check in with mom or dad, let them know what happened at school, the cares that were provided there, and then leave.”
Home health can be incredibly intimate and hands-on as it directly correlates with the life of a family. However, Jessica has grown to love her position with Ivy Lane. “The thing that I love about nursing the most is the patients. Like I say this over and over, but it’s the patients. We just love them in any setting. And with working with Ivy Lane, you get more interaction with the patient than you would in any other type of job. It’s so enjoyable and so fulfilling. And I think that if you’re a people person and you’re interested in maybe trying a medical career or getting an LPN, I think this is such a great way to go,” Jessica says. “You can’t go wrong, because the parents are just so grateful to have you there to get that help that they need, so they don’t have to care for these medically complex children 24/7. Often, they have other children,, or they might have jobs or whatever, and they’re just grateful to have you. It’s such a happy environment, a relaxed environment, and you’re just with the patient for your entire shift, and you’re with their family. So you get the maximum benefit of being a nurse, whereas a lot of times, when you’re in the hospital, sometimes you just get a few minutes with each person, and you don’t get that personal attention that we nurses enjoy so much.”
The second portion of the interview features Becky as she discusses the difference between curative care and palliative care. “Curative care stands separate from palliative care. That’s probably the best way to introduce it and to explain it. If we have a disease or an illness and we have curative care for it–things we can do to remedy the situation, to resolve the situation–then that’s curative care. Palliative care works on increasing comfort, increasing function, decreasing the daily burdens that patients and their families have from their long term illness.” Becky also explains the difference between palliative care and end-of-life care. “Palliative care, you can think of it as an umbrella. On one end of palliative care, you have the diagnosis of a life-altering illness. On the other end, you have end-of-life care. Palliative care covers all of that. Home and Community Based palliative care can include any care focused after that time of diagnosis.”
Becky also shares the unique mission of Brades’ Place and the importance of providing unique pediatric care. “Our motto is actually “unique medical care for unique kids.” And that isn’t only referring to that each of our children has unique diagnoses–sometimes they’re pretty rare and kind of one of a kind–but it is also that the care that they need is unique and not often found in most medical practices. To us, those are our entire practice, our kids with unique diagnoses and unique care,” she describes. “Our office is on four wheels. It’s a mobile office. We don’t have a clinic made out of brick and mortar yet. And so all of our services are in their home, where they need it, when they need it, at their most comfortable place and where we get the best assessments done. That’s unique. We’re available to our families 24/7, which is really unique and also critical for our kids. We are holistic care. We take medical care of our patients physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And we’re also unique in that we provide care for their caregivers, for their siblings, for the entire family.”
If you want to listen to Episode 42 of The College Handoff, which features the full interviews and more insights into becoming involved with these organizations as a student or LPN and the importance of individualized physical, emotional, and spiritual care for patients and their families, go to https://thecollegehandoff.podbean.com/e/special-nurses-for-unique-kids/ or anywhere you listen to podcasts.