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Faces from the Field: Becoming a Nurse and Paying it Forward

Posted by Kimberly Williams, RN, Children's Health Fund’s Phoenix Children’s Health Project

Hello, it’s Nurse Kim again. In my last blog, I promised to write about my passion for nursing and I never make a promise that I can’t keep. I’ll try to keep this story short for the purpose of this blog, but I could write an entire book about my journey as a nurse. The funny thing about my story is that I never knew that I wanted to be a nurse. The only thing I knew back in 1990 was that if I became a nurse, I would always have a job and would be able to support my children. That’s it. That’s the real reason that I became a nurse. I never even considered all the intrinsic rewards, like making people feel better, or being a part of a team that saves lives.

There hasn’t always been a nursing shortage like there was before the economy took a nose dive. In 1994, Phoenix Children’s Hospital was the only hospital hiring new graduate nurses. I was offered a job working on the general pediatrics unit on the day of my graduation. I had no idea that I was meant to be a pediatric nurse, but I was… to the bone! I’ve spent the last 17 years practicing pediatric nursing and have loved every minute of it. Even the hard days have been rewarding.

"My goal is to end homelessness and the nursing shortage at the same time."

In my last post, I mentioned that I have been responsible for providing nursing care at the largest family shelter in Arizona that houses approximately 200 adults and their children. I also mentioned that my passion for nursing has skyrocketed and I wanted to tell you why. Because I am responsible for all the health screenings, I have the opportunity to meet every family and spend some time getting to know them. During a typical screening, I usually discover the many reasons that have contributed to their becoming homeless. On occasion, I will meet someone who expresses their desire to enter the healthcare field and I simply ask them, “What’s holding you back?” Sometimes I get a multitude of reasons and some legitimate, but sometimes I meet someone who realizes that now is the time to become the person that they have always wanted to be. I meet people who realize that education is the answer to their problem and that nursing can provide them the paycheck that they’ve been seeking to help them take care of their family. Sound familiar?

In September, 2009, I started a club to help those who had started college or who were planning to start college pursuing a career in healthcare. We call ourselves the HealthCare Career Club. The club, which meets once a month for meetings and more often for events and fundraisers, is there to support and guide anyone who is experiencing challenges while pursuing their degree. The club has been able to provide each member with a computer, CPR certifications, help with vaccines, fingerprinting and any supplies that haven’t been covered by grants or scholarships. We have 20 members including a President, a Vice President, a Secretary, a Historian, a Photographer and a Special Committees Chairperson. We have honor students, scholarship winners and working interns. We have members from age 17 to 50 years of age. We have a mother-daughter team and a mother-son team. We have members pursuing nursing, sports medicine and respiratory therapy. We have members who are medical assistants and phlebotomists who are working while going to college. We have 3 members who recently completed their Nursing Assistant training as part of the nursing curriculum. Soon they will start working and collecting a paycheck while they continue on their nursing journey. Each member is dedicated and determined to end their homelessness and begin a new life. It has been very rewarding to watch each member grow, little by little into a professional that knows what it’s like to suffer and will have compassion beyond comparison. No one could ask for a better caregiver who practices with true empathy. You can’t learn that from a book or class.

Healthcare Career Clup started by Nurse Kim of CHF

The HealthCare Career Club believes in the individual, the family and community and that is what guides our activities. The club is small now but continues to grow. My goal is to end homelessness and the nursing shortage at the same time. It could happen. You can keep up with our progress at


Photo Friday - Happy Nurses Day!

►Today, May 6th is National Nurse's Day and it kicks off National Nurses Week.   The theme for Nurses Week this year is "Nurses: Trusted to Care." 

Children's Health Fund recognizes the contributions and commitments all nurses make, and are thankful for the wonderful nurses working at Children's Health Fund programs across the country.  Nurses play an integral role in our fixed site clinics, our mobile medical clinics and school based programs, providing quality health care to America's underserved children.  Thank you for all you do!

World Asthma Day

Today is World Asthma Day—an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.  Over the next few weeks, we’re excited to share blog posts that will explain more about the work our providers are doing across the country to help underserved kids and families learn how to control asthma.

by Dr. John Carlson, pediatrician and asthma/immunology specialist, New Orleans Children’s Health Project and Plaquemines Parish

I see many patients who are living with asthma and allergies while working on the mobile clinics in the 9th ward of New Orleans and in southern Plaquemines Parish. When I see a patient with asthma, I work with the family to select the right controller medications so that they have no limitations in the activities they can take part in. If they have difficulty running, sleeping or going to school because of their asthma, I know that we can find a better medication. I also look to see if they have problems with food allergies, eczema, snoring and nasal allergies because controlling these other problems are an important part of controlling asthma.

For Plaquemines Parish resident, Marie*, helping to keep her son Sam’s* asthma under control was difficult.   Although Marie was employed, she was not able to afford health insurance for her children.  Subsequently, Sam’s asthma was not properly managed, causing frightening outbreaks that made breathing extremely difficult.  A few months ago, Marie discovered our clinic outside of the school where she works and learned that her child could receive care, regardless of her ability to pay.  After bringing Sam to the clinic, I was able to get Sam on an “Asthma Action Plan,” give him proper medication, and help Sam and Marie understand what was triggering Sam’s asthma outbreaks.  As it turned out, we also discovered Sam had severe allergies after providing him allergy testing and treatment. 

Allergies and asthma run in families, so I often see kids in groups, and help parents find the resources to control their own asthma. This is helpful especially when it is time to do allergy testing. I perform skin testing using drops of oil that contain various common substances that children are allergic to. Children are often apprehensive about skin tests, but are more comfortable when they see older members of the family go first. After applying the allergy extracts (using a plastic device that "pricks" the oil into the skin) we wait 15 minutes to see which extracts cause a reaction. Depending on what the child is allergic to, we can sometimes help them to avoid or at least predict when they will have more problems. Simply knowing that the patient does have allergies at all helps predict how effective some of the medications will be.

Once asthma is effectively controlled, the children are able to do everything that normal children are supposed to do without limitations from their asthma.  It’s great to be a part of this solution and help kids, like Sam, learn about triggers, get the proper medication, and take control of their asthma.

*patients’ names changed to protect privacy

Photo Friday: Lead Heads Show Benefits CHF

Will you be in NYC this weekend? Do you enjoy the music of the Grateful Dead?

If yes, come check out the Lead Heads, America's only teen Grateful Dead tribute band, at The Bitter End this Sunday, May 1. For the third year in a row, the Lead Heads are contributing all proceeds from ticket sales to CHF!

Visit the event site to buy your tickets today:

News From Our Programs Across Country

By Arturo Brito, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer & Executive Vice President, Children’s Health Fund

With 24 CHF programs in 16 states, it’s not surprising that there is a lot going on within our National Network. We thought our readers would love to hear some of the exciting things happening within our programs around the country. Enjoy!

The construction of the brand new Pediatric Center of Excellence at the Chiricahua Community Health Center, home of the Southern Arizona Children’s Health Project, has been completed and they expect to begin seeing children in early June. This new site will allow them to see more children and provide additional services, such as subspecialty care, helping to meet the complex needs of the many children with special health care needs living within their service area.

The New Jersey Children’s Health Project is currently coordinating an expansion into Camden, NJ, a city with a large homeless population and high crime rate.

The mental health team at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Children’s Health Project received a grant from BP last year and they have been using those funds for the development and implementation of a Peer Listening Program. They anticipate this program will be very useful for helping children cope with stress they experience around hurricane season and other natural disasters as well as the oil spill.

CHF’s Center for Community Health Technology (CCHT) recently trained the Baton Rouge Children’s Health Project to use eClinical Works, the electronic medical record that CHF uses and has developed content for. By all accounts, BRCHP staff is happy with their new EHR system and feel like it will improve their practice flow and allow for more research and publication opportunities. A special thank you to Sue Spalding (Medical Director, Dallas CHP) for joining CCHT as part of the training team.

Photo Friday - The Happiest Paint Job In Colorado

►"That's the happiest van I ever saw," a flagman told the driver of Children's Health Fund (CHF)'s affiliate program in Montrose, Colorado.  Joining CHF's fleet of vibrant blue "doctor's office's on wheels," the van funded from a grant from American Idol "Idol Gives Back", is part of our local Child Health Transportation Initiative, a partnership with Telluride Foundation.

Lack of access to reliable transportation is one of the most pervasive barriers to health care for children in the United States, resulting in missed opportunities for routine well-child care, increased incidence of untreated chronic illnesses, increased use of emergency rooms for non-emergency care, and an increase in preventable hospitalizations.  The local program in Colorado offers patients living in three counties a ride to follow-up and special medical and dental apppointments if they do not have their own transportation to get them there.

Connecting Kids to Care – One Year Later

By Carol Sumkin, Senior Vice President, Development, Children's Health Fund

One year ago today, Children’s Health Fund (CHF) and Clorox launched the Connect Kids to Care program with the help of actress Julianne Moore. The goal of the program was to rally people across the country to help CHF connect vulnerable kids to ongoing health care with the click of a mouse.  Each time someone “liked” Clorox on Facebook, Clorox donated $1.00 to CHF (up to $100,000).  Six months after the launch, we reached 100,000 “likes,” thanks to supporters like you.   

That $100,000 donation along with Clorox’s additional $500,000 commitment is going a long way.  In fact, in 2010 this important support has helped enable CHF programs to provide more than 244,000 medical, mental, and dental health visits as well as other vital health services to kids across the country. 

And remember the kids you met in our Connect Kids to Care videos?  If you haven’t caught up with Jorge, check out our recent blog post to see how he’s doing. 

Pretty amazing! Thank you to Clorox for helping raise awareness about the millions of American children that do not have the health care services they need and deserve. 

And the best part? You can expect to see more from the Connect Kids to Care program in the coming months! Stay tuned.

Photo Friday - Congratulations Children's Health Fund Co-Founder Paul Simon

► This week, Children's Health Fund Co-Founder Paul Simon released his 12th solo album, So Beautiful or So What.  Congratulations to Paul from all of us at Children's Health Fund!

Behind the Wheel: Arizona Doctors In Their Own Words

"There are days when I personally dirve the 38 foot mobile clinic complete with a nurse triage room, two exam rooms, a patient waiting area, a bathroom and a registrar area..."

Practicing in a Clinic on Wheels
by Cody Conklin-Aguilera, MD

Life in a Rural FQHC
by April Alvarez-Coronna, MD

One of the best ways to get to know our programs is by listening to stories from the doctors that work on the mobile clinic every day. From their personal accounts, we learn more about the talented group of individuals that make up the Children's Health Fund National Network while getting a glimpse at the struggles and successes of working with homeless and underserved communities.

This month, the newsletter for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Arizona Chapter features artciles from two of CHF’s doctors – Dr. Cody Conklin-Aguilera from our Phoenix Children’s Health Project and Dr. April Alvarez-Corona from our Southern Arizona Children’s Health Project.

Follow Dr. Cody from the South Bronx Health Center for Children and Families in New York to working on the Phoenix mobile clinic. In Dr. April's account, she explains what it means to be a “community pediatrician” and do more than just provide children with medical care.

We are very proud to share these stories with you and hope you enjoy getting to know our dedicated staff and what it takes to bring quality health care to the most vulnerable kids across the country.

Photo Friday - Raising Our Voice for America's Children

CHF at Capitol Hill

Since our inception, CHF has remained an active voice in child health care policy both federally and locally. Through Hill visits, Policy Forums, and Advocacy Days like the 2009 event on the West Capitol Lawn, Washington, D.C. (pictured here), CHF raises it's voice for the health care rights of all children, since their voices can not be heard.  

Even with the 2010 passage of the health care law, our fight for the health care rights of all children is far from over. This week the government faces possible shutdown due to Congressional wrangling over the current year’s budget.  The House passed a budget that the Senate deems unacceptable while a small faction in the House is calling for even deeper cuts than the ones they already passed.  EVERYTHING is on the table, including cuts to Medicaid and even the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These potential reductions in funding for vital safety net programs will impact millions of children and families, including 30 million children that depend on Medicaid.  We need you to contact your representatives and tell them it is imperative that they work to protect children from theses program cuts and changes now and in the future.

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