CHOC Nurse Shares What Inspires Her Most

In honor of National Nurses Week, we’ve been highlighting some of our amazing CHOC Children’s nurses and why they’re so dedicated to our patients and families! We sat down with Becky Jenny, a charge nurse in CHOC’s Specialty Clinics, who shared some of her experiences.

Becky Jenny, RN
Becky Jenny, RN

What inspired you to become a nurse?

Becky: At a young age I learned how to care for a family member very close to me with a chronic illness. Throughout my childhood and adult life I have always loved to give a “helping hand” to sick family members, friends, pets, etc.

What motivates you as a nurse?

Becky: I love going to bed at night feeling like I made a difference in at least one child’s life every day I work.

Do you have a favorite CHOC memory or milestone you’d like to share?

Becky: A teenage patient in one of our clinics had a very difficult central line catheter to access. As a result, it gave the patient anxiety every time it needed to be accessed. It took me some time to gain the trust but I was allowed to access the port.  The patient now requests me when they are admitted to the hospital and comes to visit me on their monthly visit. Gaining that trust and encouraging our patients that it doesn’t always have to be a negative experience, are the best memories I have.

In light of CHOC’s new campaign, the Future’s Bright, how are you ensuring that Orange County’s kids’ futures are brighter?

Becky:  Working in the outpatient specialty clinics we follow many kids when they are not in the hospital. I help to make their futures brighter by doing everything I can do outpatient to avoid an inpatient visit. Allowing the kids to go to school, play with their friends, and stay home with their families, sleeping in their own bed contributes to a brighter future.

Thank you, Becky, and all of our CHOC nurses, for your unwavering commitment and compassion for the patients and families we are privileged to serve!

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Dignity, Respect Run in This Nurse’s Family

Not a day goes by that we at CHOC Children’s don’t consider the great impact of nurses – but this week, Nurses Week,  presents us with a formal occasion to celebrate our nursing staff.

In today’s blog post, we hear how Julia Afrasiabi, an Emergency Department charge nurse, is making futures bright for the children of Orange County, and her personal connection to nursing.

When it comes to Julia Afrasiabi’s bedside manner, the charge nurse in the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital takes a cue from mom.

“My mom’s a pediatric hospice nurse,” Julia says. “Her big things are dignity and respect – she always taught me that.”

Though a hospice nurse – who works to ensure children with terminal illnesses live their final days comfortable and surrounded by love – performs different duties than an Emergency Department (ED) nurse, Julia draws constant inspiration from her mother.

“I see my mom’s compassion for parents of dying children, so I ask myself how I could not give the same compassion to parents of children I see,” Julia says.

Julia didn’t always want to follow in her mother’s nursing footsteps; at first, she dreamed of being an interior decorator.

After deciding to be a nurse, her pediatrics specialty was hard-earned. As a nursing student, Julia experienced a personal loss of a child in her life. The painful event left Julia unsure if she could work in a setting where the death of a child was a possibility.

But once again, her mother had good advice. “She told me that personal experiences make you better,” Julia says.

And Julia’s next rotation at school sealed the deal: pediatrics.

“I loved that children were so bright,” she recalls. “Even during the worst of situations, they are happy. I love that.”

When Julia’s mother visits CHOC, the duo will meet for lunch, where there is no shortage of conversation fodder.

“There’s an interesting juxtaposition between our jobs,” Julia says. “The ED is about saving and prolonging life; my mom’s job is about the end of life. It leads to some interesting philosophical discussions.”

Unfortunately, tragedy can make Julia’s work more closely resemble her mother’s. During those difficult times especially, she channels mom.

“In the ED, I can bring healing hands,” Julia says. “But when we can’t heal, my presence can be a calming and peaceful time in a patient’s life.”

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A Mother’s Perspective

Rebecca Pak, RN
Rebecca Pak, RN

In recognition of Nurses Week and Mother’s Day next week, we’d like to share the compelling story of one of our dedicated nurses, Rebecca Pak, an RN in the Endocrinology Clinic at CHOC Children’s , and how her daughter’s rare condition gave her a new perspective as a nurse, and as a mommy.

The day is crystal clear in my mind. I met my baby girl, who came to me from South Korea, and knew my life was going to be full of joy and happiness. I also knew that there would be many unknowns and many challenges with an adopted child. What I didn’t know was that this precious baby would change my career and perspective on nursing forever.

She arrived to me as a healthy 8-month-old baby. She was happy and immediately bonded to our entire family. When she reached her first birthday, I began to notice subtle things in her physical development. After working a long night shift, in May of 2010, I came home and began to get my baby changed and ready for the day. When I was getting her dressed, I noticed her breasts looked bigger than normal. I told myself “it is probably just baby fat.”  My 11 years of neonatal intensive care nursing didn’t prepare me for what was about to come.

In June 2010, I noticed my daughter’s left breast increasing in size, as well as other abnormal changes for her age. Immediately I took her to the pediatrician. She ordered labs, an X-ray of her hand to determine her bone age, and referred us to pediatric endocrinology. Her lab results were normal but her bone age was advanced, and I felt like I couldn’t see the endocrinologist quickly enough. I was filled with fear and anxiety. My entire nursing career had been focused on neonatal intensive care. You could ask me anything related to prematurity, sepsis in the newborn and high risk deliveries and I could respond…yet I knew nothing about endocrinology.

She finally had her first appointment with endocrinology, and a Leuprolide stimulation test pointed to a diagnosis of Central Precocious Puberty, a condition where the puberty process starts way too soon.  Again the feelings of anxiety, sadness, and fear for the unknown crept into my mind. Why and how could this be happening to her?

Rebecca's precious daughter, Hana, with Dr. David Gibbs, CHOC Children's Specialists Division Chief of Surgery. Hana was the first patient to have surgery in the new OR in the Bill Holmes Tower.
Rebecca’s precious daughter, Hana, with Dr. David Gibbs, CHOC Children’s Specialists Division Chief of Surgery. Hana was the first patient to have surgery in the new OR in the Bill Holmes Tower.

We started Lupron injections every 28 days to suppress her puberty. It was hard to see my daughter go through the pain of injections and endure the negative side effects, which eventually lead to the decision to place a Supprelin implant. As I began to educate myself on this condition, I became fascinated with pediatric endocrinology. Suddenly, I had the aspiration to one day perform stimulation testing and provide treatment for endocrine conditions. I wanted to help the families and children who were going through what my daughter was going through.

Serendipitously at one her appointments, I learned my daughter’s endocrinology nurse was retiring. Without delay, I applied for the position. I knew I had a lot to learn and was hoping I would be given an opportunity to use my empathy as a mom and my skills to manage very detailed needs in order to provide the most outstanding endocrine care to patients.

Almost two years later, I now work full time as an endocrinology nurse at CHOC where my daughter is treated. I have compassion for every family that walks into our clinic. I love performing the Leuprolide stimulation tests most of all, because I get to share my daughter’s story. Immediately the parents are at ease knowing I went through this same thing when my daughter was only 18 months old.

And, I continue to strive to further my knowledge within endocrinology; after all this has become my life. I have come to realize that actually living the experience has created an empathy unsurpassed; this is what has molded me to become the endocrinology nurse that I am today. I treat every patient who walks into the Endocrinology Clinic at CHOC as if he or she were my own child. I provide a personable experience that all families will never forget…..after all, I am one of those families.

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CHOC Nurse Shares Compassionate and Courageous Glimpse of the OICU

In honor of National Nurses Week, and the remarkable dedication and care that CHOC nurses provide to our patients and families every day, we’d like to share this narrative by one of our nurses, Kerry Jauregui, from the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.

Kerry Jauregui, OICU Clinical Nurse

Walking onto this unit, is like walking into another world. If you don’t live it, you don’t get it …

• Their hairless, shiny heads are an endearing sight.
• They decorate the face masks they must wear when stepping foot outside their room, with felt mustaches.
• They know how to maneuver their lines – arm up, lying on this side – to get the best lab draw.
• Their NG tubes are referred to as “nose noodles”… and they request that we start making them in pink!
• Their fears and worries are the dreaded painful chemotherapy IM injection they are about to receive, rather than which prom dress to wear.
• Their mile long ‘beads of courage’ hanging from their IV pole resembles so much more than courage… holidays missed at home, trips to the PICU, proms missed, hundreds of chemo and blood infusions, many bad days hurled over the toilet or bucket puking… it is only a mere symbol of their strength during this difficult battle.
• They get gifts and posters, and are sung ‘Happy Transplant Day’ by nurses and child life… while in the outside world, their friends gather and celebrate a birthday party.
• A teenager is not worried about her outfit, hairdo or makeup like her peers, but is more self-conscious of her puffy steroid-induced cheeks.
• They get pulled in wagons down the hallways of the hospital, rather than down the sidewalks to the park.
• They walk holding their IV pole alongside them, rather than the hand of a best friend.
• They wait in anticipation of the morning print out of lab results, comparing and keeping immaculate record of trends and changes… rather than studying algebra.
• They know the names of their chemos rather than their classmates, and will tell you which antiemetic will work best for which chemo.
• Their pain and tears from the injection you gave is disheartening… but seeing them laugh and smile just moments later, realizing the chemo you just gave is saving their life… is truly rewarding.
• Witnessing the newborn who has been on the unit for months, have all of its firsts within the walls of the tiny hospital room… from speaking its first babbles, to teeth beginning to come in… is exhilarating!
• Helping a mother of a child to let go is a heart-breaking, yet sacred, moment.
• The child who was nearing death’s bed in the PICU just weeks ago takes their first step… and from the priceless faces on patient and mom, you know that step means so much more than just a physical act!

I smile in admiration of their strength. I laugh at their playfulness and innocence. I stand amazed by their resilience. I stand speechless in awe of the amount of love and patience the families give. I applaud a mother, who despite her fear and self-doubt, does a perfect CVAD dressing change. I cry worrying about the loss of a child’s innocence and consequently their outlook on life, from such an earth-shattering experience. I hope on behalf of their fight.

I continue to love on these kids and families… and help them to fight their fight alongside of them, because I believe. I believe in a cure. I believe in our science. I believe in our technology. I believe in our mission. I believe in our amazing team. I believe in their resilience. I believe in their strength. I believe in their hope.

Fighting this fight can be tireless, sad, hopeless, draining and frustrating along the way. But saving the life of one of these children, and being there supporting these families every step of the way is the greatest gift and privilege I could possibly ask for! It is my duty to serve. And my honor to join the fight against childhood cancer!

Related articles:

  • CHOC Nurse Shares What Inspires Her Most
    In honor of National Nurses Week, we’ve been highlighting some of our amazing CHOC Children’s nurses and why they’re so dedicated to our patients and families! We sat down with ...
  • Dignity, Respect Run in This Nurse’s Family
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  • A Mother’s Perspective
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