Every day at Akron Children’s, we strive to deliver compassionate care and create positive experiences for our patients and families. This month, we’re spotlighting Nancy Blanchard, a parent partner in Akron Children’s inpatient behavioral health unit, who recently received the following feedback from a patient family:
“I appreciate the parent partner (Nancy Blanchard). Finally, I had someone listening and supporting me! I loved how she wrote everything down for me, because there was so much information and resources provided to me. I have referred to the information on a daily basis since the day we met. She also left a little note for me. Having her words of encouragement helped me get through another day.”
How long have you worked at Akron Children’s, and what’s your role as a parent partner?
I have been at Akron Children’s for nearly six years. The parent partner role is someone who helps support, encourage and empower the families of patients admitted to the inpatient behavioral health unit. We also meet with families in PIRC and the medical floor, if needed.
Reflecting on this patient experience and the feedback you received, how do you feel about it?
This feedback is a great reminder that our everyday interactions can have a positive impact on families, often without us even realizing it. There wasn’t anything radically unique about this case, so it’s a great example of how what we do in our everyday work can be a game changer for our families. We have a beautiful opportunity to be a bright light during a parent’s darkest time.
As we see more children in need of mental and behavioral health services, how do you support parents during such a challenging time? What advice do you have for them?
Connecting with others who may have experienced something similar makes the journey less lonely. Having others that you can talk openly with, share tips, offer and receive hope, validate emotions, and simply be present can be the type of support someone needs. Reaching out to others (or a professional therapist, when needed) is a sign of strength!
It’s also important to remember the saying, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Treating others without judgement and remembering that we all have a story (based on our upbringing, circumstances, and wiring) is a big part of human relations and empathy. Showing others and ourselves grace is imperative.
I like to remind those I talk with to stay strong, resilient, and look for the glimmers of light – and hope! Never lose hope that brighter days are coming.
While we’ve made great strides in reducing the stigma of mental health, it’s still not usually viewed the same as a medical illness, where the neighbors bring you a casserole dinner to help get you through it. There’s also some mystery, and perhaps fear, around our inpatient unit, but there doesn’t need to be. Our typical kiddos are dealing with an illness that they didn’t ask for, just like those in the medical units. An inpatient hospitalization for a mental health challenge can be a “rumble strip” experience – it just reminds you to readjust your steering, before moving further on life’s highway.
What does patient- and family-centered care mean to you, and how do you strive to deliver that care?
It’s amazing that Akron Children’s has this parent partner program. What began as a grant-funded program years ago has remained in place because of the need and because of the value to families. As you can imagine, a child’s mental health can impact the whole family and vice versa. Our unit understands this, and our team does an outstanding job collaborating and advocating for the entire family with compassion and care.
What do you most enjoy about your work at Akron Children’s?
This job has taught me so much and allows me to have a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Not only can I encourage other caregivers on a personal level, but with our director’s support and encouragement, my co-worker and I were able to create some bigger mental health awareness projects to help educate the wider community. When we reached out to other departments to get these efforts off the ground, we were met with enthusiasm and agreement the entire way. I appreciate that we have employees who give their talents so generously to our patients, families and also to each other. We serve our families, but we also have created one here at work. My heart is full.