Mindfulness Tips for Teens

Teens’ mental health is as important as their physical health. It’s not always obvious when a teen is struggling emotionally, but recognizing the symptoms and seeking early and effective mental health services are important to prevent more serious mental health issues.

Parents should talk to their teens and foster a relationship based on open communication. Seek to understand how your child is feeling, without judgment, before you try to fix the problem.

As a pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s Hospital, Dr. Mery Taylor helps teens and their families who are facing a variety of mental health challenges. Typical concerns or issues teens seek treatment for include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty coping with stressors such as: chronic illness, a life or family change, a social or school concern, and grief and loss
  • Disruptive behavior disorders, including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD)
  • Eating disorders

“Throughout my ten years at CHOC, a majority of teens I have worked with have come to me for pain issues, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and difficulty coping with stress,” says Taylor. “I have also seen an increase number of transgender youth and parents seeking services.”

mindfulness
Dr. Mery Taylor, pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s

What is mindfulness?

Practicing mindfulness, or relaxation techniques can help teens build coping skills to address issues, such as anxiety disorders. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in our emotions and not see our way out of them, says Dr. Taylor.

“The more we attend to the fear, the more power it gets and we can become paralyzed about what to do, or avoid aspects of our life in attempt to manage the anxiety. We can get stuck on a cycle of trying to avoid our anxiety and forget to live life. At times, we allow our negative thoughts and emotions to dictate our actions without stopping to assess if they are valid and irrespective of the consequences. For example, we might avoid going to school because we don’t feel we have studied enough for a test and then end up missing out on important instruction for another class. Mindfulness makes us stop for a minute and check in with ourselves,” says Dr. Taylor. “Mindfulness asks us to be curious of our thoughts and feelings without judgment or action—to just be in the moment. Developing acceptance and compassion for the painful parts of our inner emotional life can weaken the power of the anxiety. Once weakened, we can better manage our fears.”

Tips for practicing mindfulness:

  • When something is bothering you, shift that attention to yourself, rather than what you’re reacting to.
  • Stop for a moment to center yourself, by addressing and labeling those sensations (fear, worry, anger). Validate these feelings to ourselves can help to lessen our fight or flight reaction.
  • Now turn to your attention to your body. Identify the sensations going on in your body. All emotions are experienced as sensations in our body.
  • If you find yourself attending to the thoughts or feeling again, gently bring your focus to your body sensation (e.g., muscle tension, heartbeat, etc.).
  • Practice relaxation techniques to calm the nervous system, to stop the nervous reaction and respond more cognitively. For example:
    • Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. Visualize a peaceful setting. You can repeat a phrase such as, “I am relaxed” to invoke muscle tension release. Focus also on breathing slowly and evenly.
    • Progressive muscle relaxation. In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. You can start with clenching your hands into a fist and then relaxing them. Focusing on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation, will help you become more aware of physical sensations.
    • Form a mental image of a place that find to be peaceful and calming. To relax imagine yourself exploring this place. Try to incorporate as many senses as you can, including smell, sight, sound and touch on your journey. If you imagine relaxing at the beach and feel the cool sand on your felt, and sound of the crashing waves
    • You probably already know other things that calm you (e.g., listening to music, taking a shower, walking your dog, etc.). You can do those things too.

Parents can help facilitate mindfulness.

“Being non-judgmental is a big part of mindfulness,” says Taylor. “It’s important to accept that we do what we can, and that we have limitations. It’s important to acknowledge everything you have going on in your life that’s happening at once, and to give yourself a break.”

“A parent might acknowledge and normalize the anxiety associated with college applications as a way to show compassion and thereby minimizing the urgency that the teen feels. Once more calm, the teen can focus on the college application, instead of attending to the distressing thoughts and feelings.”

Parents hoping to teach mindfulness practices to their teens are also encouraged to model the behavior themselves, says Taylor. Remind teens that practicing mindfulness can also improve concentration at school and improve performance.

CHOC believes mental health treatment should be fully integrated with physical health treatment. Our psychology team works closely with patients’ medical teams to attend to emotional, behavioral and developmental needs through inpatient and outpatient therapy. Our goal is to foster the whole well-being of the teen and family.

CHOC psychologists have recorded a library of guided imagery audio tracks to help children and teens relax, manage pain, ease fears and anxiety, fall asleep easier and more:

Experience guided imagery as a healing tool

Related posts:

  • Meet Dr. Esther Yang
    Meet Dr. Esther Yang, a pediatric psychiatrist at CHOC Children’s,
  • A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Teen Brain
    Three pediatric experts from CHOC Children’s discuss the teen brain and offer advice for parents on how to better understand and connect with their teen.
  • How to Make Shots Less Stressful
    Vaccines represent significant breakthroughs in medical research and disease prevention. When the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended immunization schedule is followed according to plan, it is shown to be the ...

Healthy Meal Prep Tips for Busy Parents

By Elise Harlow, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

When life gets busy, making homemade meals can fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Drive-through or take-out dinners may sound more appealing and time-friendly! While there is nothing wrong with the occasional fast-food meal, by cooking meals at home you can reduce the amount of added fat and sodium, and have control over the types of ingredients going into your family’s food.

To increase the amount of homemade meals you have on hand during busy times, meal planning and meal prepping can be your best friend. This can also be a great way to involve your kids in the kitchen and increase their interest in healthy foods.

Meal planning: this means taking one day out of the week to sit a down with a planner and plan out your meals for the upcoming week. After your meals are planned out, make a grocery list for all the ingredients you will need for the week.

Helpful tip: use leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day. For example, a roasted chicken for dinner can become a chicken salad sandwich for lunch the next day

How to involve your children: Let your children help you in planning meals by letting them choose what is for dinner one night a week. Maybe one day they can choose a meal that they know they like, and one day they get to pick a new food that they would like to try. You can even bring your children along with you to the grocery store to help pick up the ingredients needed for the week. Children tend to be more likely to try new foods when they have some sort of say in what they are eating.

Meal prepping: this means that once a week you pre-cook whatever meals from your meal plan that allow for this. For example,  roasting a chicken on Sunday and using the chicken in dishes for the rest of the week, or making lasagna on Sunday for dinner during the week, or portioning out yogurt and fruit in single-serving containers for easy grab-and-go breakfasts each day of the week.

How to involve your children: assign your children age-appropriate tasks that they can do on their own. Again, this will increase their interest in the food and could make them more likely to try new foods. Some ideas include scrubbing vegetables, counting ingredients, measuring, or mixing ingredients together.

A crock pot or slow-cooker can be your best friend during busy times. The beauty of a crock pot is that you can throw the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning on your way out the door to work and arrive home to a warm, homemade meal for you and your family. Looking for ideas? Below is a recipe for steel cut oats, that could even be cooked overnight, which means waking up to warm cooked breakfast!

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Recipe adapted from CookSmarts.com
Ingredients
2 cups steel cut oats
6 cups water

2 cups milk of any type
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 peeled apples
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Optional add ins: flax seed, chia seed, almonds, pecans, shredded coconut, hemp seeds, pepitas, etc.

Directions

  1. Spray the slow cooker with cooking oil or brush with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Put all ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  3. Top with optional add-ins of your choice.

Want more nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox?

Sign up for our KidsHealth e-newsletter.

Related posts:

 

CHOC Walk in the Park 2017: Team Hope

By Ashlie Wenrick, mom of CHOC patient Noah

I was inspired to become part of the CHOC Walk in the Park when I was in junior high, as a way I could help children in my own community who were  at CHOC Children’s. I did all I could to raise money, made calls to family and friends, wrote letters and went door-to-door asking for donations. That’s where my passion for raising money for CHOC all started and every year my parents and I would participate in the CHOC Walk.

My son Noah was born in 2014 at St. Joseph’s, right next to CHOC. Nine hours after he was born, a nurse noticed something was off during a routine check-up, and soon we were being sent to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It took a few days to determine exactly what was wrong. Noah was diagnosed with a lung infection and stayed in the NICU for almost two weeks.

Having participated in the CHOC Walk for so many years, I knew that CHOC was an amazing hospital, but I didn’t think I would ever be on the receiving end of their care. Being a walker for so many years and then having your own child be a patient at CHOC can be very emotional! CHOC did everything they could to make us feel comfortable when we were there and their staff was amazing!

choc walk
Meet Noah, the inspiration behind CHOC Walk in the Park’s Team Hope

In 2014 my husband and I created Team HOPE in honor of Noah. It started off as a small team, but last year Team Hope had around 90 walkers and raised more than $16,000 for CHOC. I never imagined Team HOPE would be such a big team! . Thanks to CHOC,  Noah is now a happy, healthy 3-year-old and for that we will continue walking for CHOC helping raising money.

My favorite memory from all CHOC walks is when you are standing on Main Street, waiting with thousands of walkers getting ready to start the CHOC Walk. I love looking around and seeing how excited everyone is and thinking all of us came together to help raise money for CHOC and knowing there are some amazing stories on why money is raised is an amazing feeling!

A few tips for first time CHOC Walkers: remember that in fundraising, every dollar counts in making a difference. On the day of the walk, allow extra time to park and find your way to the front of Disneyland as the trams are not running. Last but not least, have fun while raising money for the children.

Register Now!

Related posts:

  • CHOC Walk in the Park: Meet Team Timmaree
    By Debbie Hicks, CHOC Walk in the Park participant  At 7 years of age, our daughter Timmaree was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called orbital rhabdomyosarcoma. In the ...
  • CHOC Walk in the Park: Justin’s Helpers
    As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, CHOC “Walk in the Park” has raised more than $24 million to fund education, research and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to ...
  • CHOC Walk in the Park: Insider Tips for Event Day
    The 25th annual CHOC “Walk in the Park” is around the corner. With 15,000 Walkers expected at this year’s Walk, here are some tips to help teams and individual walkers ...

 

 

Meet Dr. Esther Yang

CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Esther Yang, a pediatric psychiatrist.

Dr. Esther Yang
Dr. Esther Yang, a pediatric psychiatrist at CHOC Children’s

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I attended UCLA for my undergraduate studies, Loma Linda University for medical school, and University of California, Irvine for both my psychiatric residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: Two months.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?
A: I am interested in cultural psychiatry, the integration of mental health and spirituality, and implementing a holistic approach in treatment by working with therapists and other providers to integrate care. During fellowship training, I received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to work with minority communities in building awareness about mental health.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: Depression, anxiety and ADHD. It seems to be much harder today to be a teen than it was ten years ago with social media, bullying and increased responsibilities.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you/your division at CHOC? 

A: In the psychiatry clinic at CHOC, virtually every patient that we see is also seen by a therapist in the same clinic, making it possible to integrate care, and all of our doctors are fellowship trained in child and adolescent psychiatry. There are many resources and more on the horizon with the opening of the inpatient unit and the intensive outpatient program.

Q: What excites you most about CHOC’s mental health initiative

A: It’s an exciting time at CHOC with the upcoming opening of the inpatient mental health unit, programs such as the intensive outpatient program and new clinics – all coming at a time when there continues to be a shortage in providers and services in psychiatric care. It inspires me to work at a place that is committed to the treatment of children and advancing mental health care.

 Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC? 

A: I love the concept of a hospital that is dedicated to the treatment of children and that every single person shares that dedication. I’ve had personal experiences with my children being patients at CHOC prior to working here and it was a very positive experience where we felt genuinely taken care of. I knew that if I ever had the opportunity to work here, it would be a privilege.

Q: Why did you decide to become a pediatric psychiatrist? 

A: I decided to become a pediatric psychiatrist my senior year in high school after hearing a psychiatrist talk about mental health and the great stigma that exists in minority communities during a lecture at our church. I’ve never regretted this decision and it’s been an incredible journey. I enjoy listening to everyone’s unique stories and working to break stigmas and barriers to access to care, which continue to exist.

 Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?

A: Honestly, I would probably be a stay-at-home mom. I love spending time with my family, doing crafts with my kids and cooking. I also believe that the key to healthy kids starts in the home, and my skills as a psychiatrist are sometimes useful at home when it comes to training and discipline.

 Q: What are your hobbies and interests outside of psychiatry? 

A: I enjoy reading, baking, and crafting.

 Q: What was the funniest thing a patient told you?

A: I told my therapy patient that I would have to transfer his care to another doctor because I was going on maternity leave. He replied, “Oh, I thought you were fat or something.” I was nine months pregnant.

Download the Let's Talk Guide and start a conversation about mental health

Related posts:

  • Mindfulness Tips for Teens
    Practicing mindfulness, or relaxation techniques can help teens build coping skills to address issues, such as anxiety disorders.
  • A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Teen Brain
    Three pediatric experts from CHOC Children’s discuss the teen brain and offer advice for parents on how to better understand and connect with their teen.
  • How to Make Shots Less Stressful
    Vaccines represent significant breakthroughs in medical research and disease prevention. When the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended immunization schedule is followed according to plan, it is shown to be the ...

Stomach Flu or Appendicitis? What Parents Should Know

Parents often mistake appendicitis for a bad stomachache. It can be particularly difficult to diagnose in younger children, who can’t adequately describe their pain. CHOC Children’s pediatric surgeon Dr. Troy Reyna, who says appendicitis is the most common reason for abdominal surgery in children, provides helpful insight for parents in the following Q & A.

_MG_7131

What is the appendix? 

The appendix is a small extension of the intestine usually the size and length of one’s little finger. The appendix finds its home in the right lower corner of the abdomen. It is attached to the cecum, which is the beginning of the large intestine.

What is appendicitis?    

It is thought that appendicitis starts as a result of obstruction either by swelling of the inner lining (mucosa) or by hard stool (fecalith). Once the obstruction starts, the appendix swells, resulting in pain that may start centrally and later migrate to the lower right abdomen. Anyone with an appendix can get appendicitis. Approximately 80,000 children in the United States suffer from it each year.

How do I know my child’s pain is related to appendicitis?

The pain with appendicitis may be vague in the beginning and be confused with the stomach flu. Generally, though, the flu will subside after 24 hours of slight bowel rest. In appendicitis, the pain will increase in intensity and often cause a child to become immobile, as movement can aggravate the pain. The location of the pain is usually midway between the navel and the right hip bone. Pain that persists and is associated with other symptoms, such as vomiting, decreased appetite, decreased frequency of stools or changes in mental status, requires prompt attention by a medical professional.

What will be done for my child?             

If your child is seen in a doctor’s office and his exam is mild, you will likely be advised on fluid management and told to follow up in 24 hours if no improvement is noted. If your child is seen in a pediatric emergency facility, such as the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital, he will likely receive an IV (intravenous) to get needed fluids, and get blood drawn for a lab study. He may also receive an abdominal ultrasound. If a diagnosis of appendicitis is considered, then a pediatric surgeon will be called to assess your child and address any questions or concerns you may have.

What kind of operation is involved?     

The operation for appendicitis is usually done with laparoscopy. One to three small incisions are made in the belly button and off to the side. Small plastic tubes are placed through the incisions. A camera is placed into the abdomen to visualize the appendix or look for the cause of the pain. The appendix is usually then stapled or tied off and removed. The small incisions are closed. If the appendix was not ruptured, your child can drink and eat as soon as it is safe and go home within 24 hours of surgery. If the appendix is ruptured, your child will need extra antibiotics for several days to treat the peritonitis and prevent further infection.

What if it is not appendicitis?   

The appendix is carefully inspected during the surgery. In about 15 to 20 percent of the time, the appendix is normal and another cause is discovered that will require surgery. The cause may be an anomaly of the gastrointestinal tract. In girls, the problem could also be related to the fallopian tubes or ovaries. Whatever the cause, it will be treated. After surgery, the pediatric surgeon will brief you thoroughly on details and expectations.

What can I expect after surgery?              

After your child is discharged from the hospital, there will be a short recuperation at home – approximately two to three days. He will be restricted from physical education for two to three weeks. He’ll need to be seen, for follow up, by his surgeon about two weeks after leaving the hospital. Within six weeks, your child should be able to resume normal activity.

Dr. Troy Reyna is a pediatric surgeon with CHOC Children’s Specialists. He is board certified in general and pediatric surgery. He can be reached at 714-364-4050.

Want important health tips sent straight to your inbox?

Sign up for our KidsHealth e-newsletter.

Related articles:

    CHOC Nurse Following in her Mother’s Footsteps

    Spending her lunchtime with her young daughter Monica was something Maria Arreola always enjoyed when working her shift at CHOC Children’s Hospital. Proud of both, she looked forward to the times when Monica could join her at the hospital. And Monica enjoyed it, as well. Little did the two know then just how much of an impact those times together would have on their futures.

    ___________________________________________________________________________

    Maria Arreola joined CHOC in 1981 – a dream come true. Eager to get a foot in the door, she accepted a position with the environmental services department in hopes she’d eventually land a spot as a clinical assistant (CA). Six months later, she was working as a CA in oncology.

    She loved her job, and particularly enjoyed when her daughter Monica would visit her for lunch. Maria’s co-workers would frequently ask Monica what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply was always the same: “a nurse.”

    “I saw something very special in Monica, something that told me she would be a wonderful nurse,” says Maria.

    Though she didn’t tell her mom. Monica wasn’t always so sure. What she did know, however, is that CHOC was unique.

    “Even at a young age, I knew CHOC was different, and I thought it was so special because it was just for kids,” recalls Monica.

    The kids are what drew her mom to CHOC.

    “I love working with children and their families; it’s my passion. And being at CHOC means I get to care for patients, as well as provide support to their parents. It’s wonderful to be able to make such a difference,” explains Maria.

    That desire to make a difference lured Monica to follow in her mom’s footsteps. She joined CHOC in 2007 as a CA in the neurosurgical unit. At the time, Maria was working in that same unit.

    nurse
    Monica grew up visiting her mom, a registered nurse at CHOC Children’s Hospital, on lunch breaks. Inspired by her mom’s work ethic and compassion for patients, she grew up to be a registered nurse at CHOC.

    “Whenever we had the same shifts, I admired my mom’s work ethic and was inspired by her passion and her ability to connect with families,” says Monica.

    And like her mom, Monica enjoys practicing patient-and-family-centered care.

    “I love being an advocate for my patients, and a voice for those who perhaps can’t verbalize. As care providers, we need to partner with our patients and their families to really understand and meet their needs,” explains Monica.

    After a few years, and with encouragement from her mom, manager and co-workers, Monica decided to become a registered nurse. She continued to work part-time as a CA while completing her education. The support from everyone was amazing, says Monica.

    Most recently, she completed CHOC’s RN Residency Program.  And, to the delight of her mom and her co-workers, of whom many watched her grow up, she was hired as a registered nurse in the neurosurgical unit. Monica’s mom still works at CHOC, in the neurosurgery clinic. So, while one Arreola works with CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute patients on the inpatient side, the other gets to interact with them as outpatients.

    “I am so proud of my daughter, of the human being and of the nurse she became. I also still love working at CHOC,” says Maria, who recently celebrated her 25th year. “Having my daughter part of my CHOC family, as well, is amazing.”

    When Maria and Monica aren’t working, they enjoy spending time with their family, going on hikes and enjoying Maria’s cooking.

    Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

    Related posts:

    Inspiring the Next Generation of Nurses

    In honor of National Nurses Week, and as part of CHOC’s week-long celebration of our incredibly skilled and caring nursing staff, we asked several members of our nursing leadership team what advice they would offer to the next generation of nurses.

    nurses
    Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer

    Melanie Patterson, senior vice president and chief nursing officer

    Q: What advice do  you have for those pursuing their professional aspirations?

    A: Recognize your strengths and spend time building on them. Don’t waste time focusing on your flaws; instead, strut your strengths! Know who you are and be that person always. Don’t beat yourself up when something doesn’t go perfectly. Sometimes, what we consider our biggest “mistakes” can make the biggest wake. Realize you make a wake, whether rough waters or not, so make that wake count. Showing your humility in the face of adversity is many times the best gift you can give another person or group.

    nurses
    Nancy Kraus, service line director of critical care, director of clinical education

    Nancy Kraus, service line director of critical care, director of clinical education

    Q: What advice do you have for aspiring nurses?

    A: In any profession there are a variety of roles and responsibilities you can have throughout your career. Typically you choose “A” and think you might progress to “B” or “C.” Don’t rule out “D thru Z.” Sometimes you find what you are most passionate about by stepping outside your comfort zone. Take every opportunity that is offered to you large and small – all will become growth experiences that help you progress personally and professionally. As a young nurse just starting my career I never would have imagined I would have had the opportunity to be a bedside care provider, a college professor, a national public speaker at conferences, a global health volunteer, a peer leader with my physician partners, assist in research, lead an organization to a Magnet award of excellence, mentor others, be “the neighborhood nurse,” and now a director over critical care. All of these opportunities came because early on I decide to say “yes” when opportunities were offered to me to try something new, when someone asked for help, when I joined a group project or chose to be engaged and participate outside of my primary position.

    nurses
    Alisa McCormick, nurse manager, pediatric intensive care unit

    Alisa McCormick, nurse manager, pediatric intensive care unit

    Q: What is something you wish you would have known when you began your career?

    A: I wish I would have had the advice that a friend gave me recently. The advice was to always have someone behind me that I am helping to grow and develop, and someone ahead of me that is a mentor, helping me to grow and develop. Embracing such a simple concept of balance as a new nurse would have helped me focus and develop my career much sooner. I waited over 20 years to return to school mostly out of fear. Returning to school allowed me to gain the skill and confidence to step out of my comfort zone, become a manager, participate in evidenced-based projects, lead hospital-wide initiatives, mentor and develop my staff, and most importantly support the development of a unit-based mentor program for new nurses in the PICU.

    Susan See, nurse manager, neuroscience unit

    Q: What advice do you have for aspiring nurses?

    A: Everyone has their own unique story. It is up to you to determine what your story looks like. Whether you are early in your career or you have been in healthcare for years, there is no better time than right now to keep your passion alive and active by embracing opportunities and striving to reach new goals. Decide what is most important to you, make deliberate choices, and run full force to attain your goals. There is something magically satisfying about doing what you love. It makes you better at what you do, and best of all, you will shine that satisfaction. Thoreau said, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”. Be uniquely you and continue to create what you want your story to look like!

    Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

    Related posts:

     

    Oncology Patient Grows Up to Become CHOC Oncology Nurse

    When most adults think back to their earliest memory, they might remember a field trip in preschool or a vacation with family. But Caroline, a registered nurse in the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, remembers CHOC. She was diagnosed with cancer at age two, and spent the next two and a half years in and out of treatment.

    nurse
    Caroline was diagnosed with cancer at age two. Years later, after winning her battle, she returned to CHOC as a registered nurse.

    “I remember the playrooms, my nurses, the child life specialists, and the friends I made in the hospital,” she recalls. “Several families got really close because of our shared experiences and regularly got together for years after we all finished treatment.”

    Caroline now works alongside several of the nurses and physicians who helped her beat cancer as a young child.

    Karen DeAnda, a registered nurse at CHOC, was the first one to care for Caroline after her diagnosis, and started Caroline’s very first IV.

    “I do recall the day Caroline came in for the first time. She was tiny, and I was a brand new nurse,” DeAnda says. “Those initial first days when a patient is being diagnosed is very difficult on the entire family. I clearly remember the day she was diagnosed and helping her through that first evening in the hospital. It was a surreal experience to see her so many years later as a grown woman; it made my heart pound. She is truly an inspiration to our patients and families.”

    nurse
    Caroline was a young child when she was at CHOC fighting cancer. Today, she’s a registered nurse at CHOC standing alongside patients fighting their own cancer battles.

    Caroline’s parents were at her bedside as often as they could be, but when they weren’t able to be there, her nurses stepped in.

    “My nurses were the people who were always there with me when my parents couldn’t be. It was like a big family,” she says. “My mom was a huge worrier, and for her to trust my nurses was a big thing.”

    Although Caroline was very young when she was diagnosed with cancer, she has a unique connection to the patients she now cares for and their families.

    “Caroline’s compassion and firsthand experience is a gift to our patients and their families. Whether or not she even shares her story with her patients, the fact that she has walked that walk, regardless of her young age at the time, allows her to have immense empathy and understanding for what the entire family is experiencing,” DeAnda says.

    The impact that Caroline’s care team had on her as a patient directly influenced her career path.

    “I’ve always been interested in medicine,” she says. “There was never a question about what I wanted to do when I grew up; I always knew that I would become an oncology nurse at CHOC.”

    For a short time during her undergraduate studies, she momentarily lost sight of that goal, and was struggling in school. At the time, CHOC was in the midst of constructing the Bill Holmes Tower, and Caroline’s dad arranged for the two of them to have a behind-the-scenes tour. One of Caroline’s primary nurses during her cancer treatment, Melanie Patterson, now the vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at CHOC, showed them the new technology and amenities that would be coming to CHOC, and it reignited Caroline’s passion.

    She applied to nursing school the next day, and began volunteering in CHOC’s oncology unit, two things that made her former nurse very proud.

    “I remember Caroline’s beautiful hair the day she was diagnosed. This beautiful toddler girl— my heart melted for her immediately. She was very young when she was treated, but this prepared her for the emotional, mental and physical toll of oncology nursing” Patterson says. “We have many former patients working at CHOC, and it makes my heart and soul glow knowing that CHOC nurses have impacted kids growing into adults that way.”

    Once on the receiving end of the small acts of kindness from nurses — who once went out of their way to pick up Caroline’s favorite food when she was sick from treatment and wouldn’t eat—Caroline now understands the importance of going the extra mile for patients and families.

    “Remembering how a mom takes her coffee in the morning, or seeing a child who is cold and bringing them a heated blanket when they didn’t even know we had those, can sometimes be the thing that changes their outlook on the whole day, and such a welcome surprise for them,” Caroline says.

    Transitioning from patient to nurse did not happen without a few unexpected revelations.

    “When I became a nurse, I was surprised at how much this career is a labor of love. When I was a patient, I had no idea how much work nurses did behind the scenes when I wasn’t looking,” Caroline says. “I felt like the center of their whole world. I didn’t know they had a lot of centers of their world.”

    As much as Caroline enjoys caring for pediatric oncology patients the way she once was cared for, she loves even more when she gets to send them home.

    “What I love most about working at CHOC is seeing patients get healthy and sending them home, where they belong,” Caroline says. “I also love seeing so many people come together for one child’s health. Seeing that happen day after day is really powerful.”

    Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

    Related posts:

    Cancer Patient to Caregiver

    When Kim was seventeen, her life looked much like a typical teenager’s. She had a part-time job, enjoyed trips to the beach with friends, and was anxiously awaiting her senior year of high school.

    But when she found herself short of breath more often than her friends were, her mom brought her to a local emergency room , just in case. She was ultimately diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

    She would spend the next 26 months in and out of CHOC Children’s fighting cancer, but always with an end goal in mind: to return someday as a hematology/oncology nurse at the Hyundai Cancer Institute, which she did, ten years after her diagnosis.

    “Even back then I thought that when I was better, I was going to be a nurse at CHOC,” she says. “I don’t think I chose my career; I think it chose me. Ever since I got sick, there was never an option to do anything else, anywhere else.”

    Despite spending so much time in and out of the hospital while fighting cancer, Kim says she never felt like a patient, something she credits to her nurses.

    “I was very involved in my care because I was fascinated by medicine,” she says. “They had protocols to follow and did everything they needed to, but I never felt like a patient. I was always Kimberly.”

    Despite knowing the hospital setting from a patient’s perspective, there were a few surprises when she joined the care team.

    “At the time, I didn’t realize all the behind-the-scenes work of being a nurse,” Kim says. “No matter what stressful situation had occurred to them earlier that day or just before they came into my room, it didn’t matter. As soon as they would walk into my room, it was all about me, and they were leaving their stress at the door.”

    She now works alongside several physicians and nurses who cared for her when she was a patient.

    “A lot of times when I see them, despite the hustle and bustle of working in a hospital, they’ll take a moment to come up to me and hug me extra tight,” Kim says.

    One of her nurses, Dana Moran, lights up every time she sees Kim. The two bonded over TV shows, movies and anything else Kim had wanted to talk about when she was a patient.

    “At that age, it’s easy to become discouraged and shut down emotionally, but not Kim,” Dana says. “She was scared and she was sick, but she never lost her sense of humor. She remained strong and positive for the people around her who were worried about her.”

    Small acts of kindness from nurses like Dana have stuck with Kim for more than a decade.

    “My mom would tell me how the nurses brought her hot coffee every morning, and how much a small gesture like that meant so much to her. So, I try to tap into the little things like that, since I know they make such a big difference to patients and families,” she said.

    Kim’s pediatric oncologist, Dr. Lilibeth Torno, met Kim’s ambulance upon her initial transfer to CHOC, and they now work side by side.

    “I admitted Kim when she was first diagnosed. Her mom had a bouquet of flowers which she handed over to me,” Dr. Torno recalls. “As a former patient, she truly understands, more than anyone else, what it is like to have a life-threatening diagnosis. She experienced firsthand the difficult procedures and treatment her diagnosis entailed, and it has made her an effective advocate for her patients. It is a joy and privilege to walk this difficult journey with our patients. It truly makes my work meaningful to see them move on in life.”

    Kim’s time as a patient also affected her career on a very detailed level.

    “Whenever I do a task, no matter how small, I can remember when that was done to me, and I think it brings a softer touch to what I do,” she says. “My whole heart is in what I do. I treat my patients’ families like they were my own.”

    Celebrating important milestones for patients is an especially heartfelt part of her role as a nurse.

    “As much as we love seeing our patients here, there is nothing better than being able to send patients home,” Kim says. “I remember how happy I was to be sent home at the end of a hospital stay, and I love being able to help them celebrate by singing, “Happy Last Chemo to You.”

    Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

    Related posts:

     

    A Heartfelt Thank You to All CHOC Nurses

    nurse
    Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer

    By Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer

    Every day we are inspired by the compassionate care our nursing staff provides for patients and their families. But as we celebrate National Nurses Week, we take an extra moment to celebrate the extraordinary skill and empathy you bring to CHOC Children’s.

    All of our nurses are committed to every patient and family that walks onto the campus. CHOC is grateful for the way you partner with parents as valued members of a patient’s care team. Our nursing staff cares for the entire family, and we know we cannot be successful without a strong partnership with parents. You are often tasked with walking a difficult journey alongside your patients. Thank you for understanding that often small acts of kindness make a big difference with the families that entrust us with their child’s care.

    nurse

    Our organization’s commitment to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children is brought to life by our world-class nursing staff. We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices you often make in order to provide the best care for kids in Orange County.

    nurse

    Throughout my 24 years at CHOC, I’ve been blessed to work alongside many of our outstanding nurses. Several of you first came to CHOC as an oncology patient,  and I had the privilege of being your bedside nurse. Seeing the brave way you battled cancer, and then seeing you grow up and return to CHOC as oncology nurses makes my heart and soul glow knowing that CHOC has impacted kids growing into adults that way.

    nurse

    Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the miracles you perform every day. It’s my honor to work alongside each and every one of you.

    Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

    Related posts:

    The official blog of CHOC Children's