Gala Shines Spotlight on Nursing in “Bid for Kids”

Categories: Events, Partners in Caring
When she was 3 months old, Olive Panning went into cardiac arrest in Connecticut Children’s PICU. Allison Wooten, RN, was working that night and sprang into action to save Olive’s life. She and Olive, who is now 3 years old, recently reunited under much happier circumstances.

Olive Panning underwent heart surgery in January 2017, three months after she was born. While the surgery itself went well, Olive went into cardiac arrest the following night. That’s when Allison Wooten, RN, sprang into action, ultimately saving the baby’s life.

The 2019 Gala will spotlight Connecticut Children’s Nursing Program and the dedicated nursing staff who make a difference in children’s lives each and every day.

“Nursing is such a special calling,” said Allison, who has worked at Connecticut Children’s for the past 15 years. “Not everyone can be a nurse, but what a privilege it is to take care of another family’s child!”

Olive at 2 months of age.

A Heart-Wrenching Night

For Allison, the night Olive coded was frightening and heart-wrenching, but all part of her life’s work as a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurse.

Since beginning her shift at 7 p.m., Allison had kept a close eye on Olive, the daughter of Adrienne and James Panning of Simsbury. “It didn’t look like she was doing well on her respiratory support,” Allison said. “Over the next couple of hours, she looked better, but when I went back around 11 p.m., she didn’t look like she was breathing.”

Then the alarm started sounding.

When Olive didn’t respond to repeated attempts to rouse her, Allison called for support and other nurses ran in to assist her. “Olive didn’t have a heartbeat,” Allison explained. They immediately began CPR and a lengthy resuscitation process ensued.

Olive is well-known throughout Connecticut Children’s.

After Olive was finally stabilized, Allison called the Pannings and asked them to come to the hospital as quickly as possible. And when they arrived, it was Allison who met them at the door. “It’s very hard to meet a family under these circumstances,” she said, “but I wanted to be the one to talk to them about what had happened.”

Today, Olive is a spunky 3-year-old, well known and beloved throughout Connecticut Children’s, where she is seen in 13 specialties.

Read more about Olive by clicking here.

Greatest Gala on Earth
It will be a big night under the Big Top when Connecticut Children’s presents the “Greatest Gala on Earth” to a capacity crowd Saturday, November 2, at the Connecticut Convention Center.

Spotlight on Nursing Under the Big Top

On November 2, Connecticut Children’s will honor its Nursing Program at the 2019 Gala to be held at the Connecticut Convention Center. The highly anticipated event, billed as the “Greatest Gala on Earth” and inspired by the “Greatest Showman,” sold out in September. The evening will unfold with a reception and silent auction at 6 p.m., followed by dinner, show-stopping performances under the “Big Top” and a live auction. Flipside, a Best-of-Boston seven-piece band, will round out the evening with a high-energy dance party.

This year’s Gala fundraising goal is $1.2 million, with proceeds from the “Bid for Kids” appeal benefiting Connecticut Children’s Nursing Program. For nurses at Connecticut Children’s, that translates into support for Nursing Research and Innovation funds, Nursing Fellowships, Graduate Residencies, the Simulation Lab, Nursing Scholarships and Wellness and Peer Support programs.

Read about a recent nursing research project by clicking here.

Nurses created a questionnaire
Mary Keller (left) and Courtney King go over the questionnaire they’ve created for parents and patients who have completed cancer treatment. It’s the first of its kind, and it promises to help families navigate the challenges they face after treatment.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Cheryl Hoey, Senior Vice President for Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Connecticut Children’s, “and it’s validating. It’s one more way to recognize nursing and how integral we are to the care patients and families receive.”

“Nurses have the privilege and opportunity to be present in patients’ and families’ lives, sometimes under the most difficult circumstances,” Cheryl said. “I think what makes Connecticut Children’s so special is how our nurses treat families with empathy, compassion and caring and, sometimes, humor.”

The nurses who developed a new sleep protocol at Connecticut Children’s presented their work at a Grand Rounds session for Connecticut Children’s a year ago. Pictured at the event (left to right) are Sonal Fisco, RN; Molly Ray, RN; Christine Baldi, RN; and Nicole Mendelson, RN.

“‘Bid for Kids’ not only supports nurses in bedside care, but in their professional development,” Cheryl said. “Our nurses want to be researchers and innovators; they want to attend conferences and bring back best practices. We want to have programs that help our nursing students and graduates connect to their practice and stay at Connecticut Children’s for a long career in nursing,” she said.

Read about a new nursing protocol by clicking here.

The patients with medical emergencies that come through Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department vary from day to day. Here, Kim Helm, RN, shares a smile with patient Skylii Candelario.

Answering the Call

Kim Helm, RN, who works as an Emergency Department (ED) nurse, came to Connecticut’s Children’s as a new graduate from Southern Connecticut State University 13 years ago. (Her twin sister, Taylor, came to Connecticut Children’s from Quinnipiac University in 2010.) “I knew I wanted to go into Pediatrics,” Kim said. And working with sick or injured children in the ED has proven to be her calling.

In the Emergency Department, every day is different. “We go over our game plan for the day, and you think everything is fine—and then a trauma happens,” Kim said. “It could be a bus accident or a car accident with multiple passengers—or Life Star flies in. We are a Level 1 Trauma Center, so we get a variety of transfers from other hospitals.”

For the past 13 years, Kim Helm, RN, has worked as an ED nurse in Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department, a position she loves.

“Things change quickly and we have to adapt to change quickly,” Kim said. “Your day can be a completely normal day and then things change in two seconds. Every year I’ve been here, it gets busier.”

Kim said the busiest times of day in the ED are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and winter is the busiest season with patients coming through the doors with respiratory illnesses and the flu. She said they see as many as 200 children a day in the winter and 150 a day, on average, in the summer.

“I like the busy, high-intensity team approach to the ER,” Kim said. “Each patient is taken care of as a team. I love my coworkers; we support each other and feed off one another to take the best care of patients.”

But most of all, Kim loves the kids. “They come in with a broken arm and it’s the worst day of their life, and when they go home, you hope that you have made things better for them.”

“I love working here,” Kim said. “Connecticut Children’s is a great place to work.”

Nurses celebrate attaining Magnet status
It was a cause for celebration when Connecticut Children’s attained Magnet status in April 2019.

Magnet Status

Others would agree. In April 2019, the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program® recognized Connecticut Children’s with Magnet status. Considered the gold standard, Magnet designation recognizes quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. Connecticut Children’s is one of only 7 percent of hospitals nationally to have earned Magnet status, which requires meeting 78 standards of nursing care, among other criteria.

Magnet Recognized - American Nurses Credentialing Center“It’s so great to be part of an organization that supports Magnet status,” said Cheryl Hoey. “That award is earned by the excellence of its nursing care. And I’m proud of our Nursing staff that is practicing in such a high-quality way.”

If you would like to help support Connecticut Children’s nurses and their ongoing delivery of outstanding care for our patients, click here.