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6 days ago · A Magnet for Pride, Devotion and Commitment

Conversations with Karen Grimley

Karen A. Grimley, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, Chief Nurse Executive, UCLA Health, Assistant Dean, UCLA School of Nursing
Karen A. Grimley, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, Chief Nurse Executive, UCLA Health, Assistant Dean, UCLA School of Nursing

Happy New Year!  Did you know the World Health Organization has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife? What a wonderful and esteemed recognition for nurses and midwives in the year of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday.

You embody the essence of this profession. Your pride and devotion to our patients, families and community is evident in what each of you do every day you come to work at UCLA, as is your commitment to improve the care environment for both patients and nurses. You are essential to our ongoing Magnet journey, carrying out our vision to heal humankind, one patient at a time, by improving health, alleviating suffering and delivering acts of kindness. The designations of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica and The Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA as ANCC Magnet institutions further validates the transformative nature of the work that each of you do. Your success is reflected in the clinical and experience outcomes realized by our patients, our organization and all of you.

Pride, devotion and commitment are born out of a desire to accomplish something that is important to you. It is fueled by personal values and drives achievement. While we might not be sure if we picked nursing or if nursing picked us, we are nurses. As individuals, we have committed to honor the American Nurses Association scope of practice and accepted our social contract of advocacy and caring. And here we are, at UCLA Health, a premier health care organization dedicated to patient care that is compassionate, kind and respectful as well as technically excellent.

How did we get here? Each of us has his or her own personal story of their journey to nursing. These stories are rich with compassion, personal loss, joy, risk-taking and more. During this Year of the Nurse and Midwife I would like to share some of these wonderful journeys with our colleagues in the hope they will inspire and renew the spirit of caring and give each of you a moment to be proud of the difference you make to colleagues, patients, family and community every day by being a NURSE.

For many of you, nursing is a vocation and something that is woven into the core of who you are. I know that is what it is for me. Being a nurse is not something I do for work; it is who I am. As a chief nurse, I spend my days listening for the voice of the patient and the nurses who care for them. Sometimes it is difficult to hear those voices through the layers of organizational complexity. This makes me work harder to peel away those layers by seeking different ways to hear you. That may be stopping by a unit, attending a staff meeting, participating in AN I and AN II forums, the unit directors’ meetings or professional governance councils. Other times it is by delivering introductions to Re-igniting the Spirit of Caring, Leadership essentials or Magnet essentials classes.

Listening to you this past year has helped us remove barriers to your ability to be at the bedside, improve leadership support and improve your safety. This year, the nursing leadership team and I will be stepping up our game, but we can’t do that without you. You are the backbone of this organization and, I am very proud to say, one of the finest nursing organizations with which I ever have had the privilege to work. Your commitment to our patients and health care teams is a shining example of nursing excellence in action. Your practice far exceeds the Magnet standards, and I am excited about your opportunity to share your accomplishments and our Magnet journey when our survey team arrives.

Fri, Jan 10 2:33pm · Captain Courageous: A Little Charmer Named Jackson

After spending much of his early life in hospitals, Jackson Verner lived out his dream as UCLA Kid Captain, charming everyone along the way.

Sara Verner tried to keep it together
as her 5-year-old son Jackson lived out his dream as UCLA Kid Captain for the
Bruins’ matchup with Oklahoma at the Rose Bowl. But seeing the unbridled joy on
her son’s face and the spring in his step as he bounded from one tailgate event
to the next, roamed the sidelines during pre-game warm-ups, and took to the
field for an introduction that earned him a standing ovation from the crowd of
more than 50,000, Verner struggled to hold her emotions in check.

“It was really hard not to cry the
whole time, to be honest,” she says.

Jackson Verner has spent much of his
young life as a hospital inpatient. After Jackson suffered a series of strokes
in 2017 that paralyzed the entire left side of his body, doctors told Sara Verner
that her son would need at least six months of in-hospital rehabilitation and
might never regain his full gait, if he could walk at all.

“I said no, he’ll walk out of here, I
promise,” Verner recalls. “You don’t know this kid.”

After six days of rehab, Jackson
walked out of there. It’s no wonder that as her son ambled around the Rose Bowl
grounds — decked out in his UCLA T-shirt and black UCLA cape as he wagged his
UCLA foam finger, chatting up everyone he met — Sara Verner, who has raised
Jackson as a single mother, fought back tears.

“He has sheer determination,” Verner
says of her son. “If someone says he can’t do something, he’s going to figure
out how he can. He is also the sweetest spirit, and I commend him for that,
because no one would blame someone for having a bad attitude after all he’s
been through.”

Jackson Verner was born as a preemie at 28 weeks and 4 days.
At five-and-a-half months he had heart surgery, and for nearly three years
after that he endured nightmarish symptoms, with episodes that included
screaming, vomiting, not eating for days and then sleeping for 40 hours straight.
He experienced cluster headaches involving the trigeminal nerve — known as
suicide headaches for the excruciating pain they cause, with no meds able to
provide relief. Desperate for answers, Sara Verner took Jackson from one
medical facility to another. She was told her son would be fine — he likely had
a virus, or was merely constipated. But she knew it had to be more.

At her wit’s end, Verner made the nearly 100-mile trek from her home community of Murrieta, in southwestern Riverside County, to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, where Jackson was admitted in May 2017. There, it didn’t take long for doctors to discover that Jackson had a brain tumor, and that the ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt ­that had been placed after his heart surgery more than two years earlier had malfunctioned and was contributing to the symptoms. In July, Jackson underwent surgery to remove the VP shunt — a medical device designed to relieve pressure on the brain caused by fluid accumulation. After spending most of his first three years in hospitals, he hasn’t had to be readmitted since his discharge later that month.

Verner credits her son’s UCLA neurosurgeon, Dr. Aria Fallah, and neurologist, Dr. Raman Sankar, with setting her son on the right path. “Both of them figured Jackson out pretty quickly,” she says. “Taking out the shunt alleviated a lot of the symptoms. And they really advocated for Jackson in a way that we hadn’t experienced at any other facility. They were intent on figuring out why this was happening and getting him a quality of life he hadn’t had before.”

Jackson’s fourth birthday was the first he had celebrated outside of a hospital. To commemorate the occasion, Sara Verner decided to start a tradition — to fundraise each year around Jackson’s birthday to benefit UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital patients. When Jackson turned 4, in June 2018, the family raised enough for 1,800 Wubbanubs — baby pacifiers with stuffed animals attached. Last June, a month-long toy drive culminated in a U-Haul full of toys being brought to the hospital.

“I decided that we were going to give
back and increase the goal every year, because those kids and their families
who are at the hospital for long periods of time, like Jackson was, really need
it,” Verner says. “They go through so much, and bringing them a little joy is
so important.”

During the toy drive, a group of UCLA
student-athletes joined with Jackson to record a promotional video that was
posted on social media platforms. Moved by Jackson’s courage and charisma, participants
from the football team told Sara Verner they wanted Jackson on the field with
them as their Kid Captain. Verner didn’t know what that was, but she knew her
son would love nothing more.

The first time Jackson had attended a UCLA football game, he
wasn’t content to sit in the stands. “He kept saying, ‘I want to go on the
field,’ ” Sara Verner says. “I had to tell him that’s not how it works.”

For the Oklahoma game, that’s how it
worked. As Kid Captain, Jackson and his guests — including his mom,
grandparents, and the family of Jackson’s best friend — were treated to a
special game-day experience. It started at the UCLA Health employee tailgate,
where Jackson ate, played cornhole, and charmed everyone who crossed his path —
cheerleaders, members of the spirit squad, and UCLA Health staff, including
some who had contributed to his hospital care. Taking the field as the players
prepared for the start of the game, he was mesmerized by how close he was to
the action. Jackson’s big moment came during a timeout in the first quarter, when
he stood on the field as the public address announcer recounted his journey, to
loud applause from Bruin fans.

Sara Verner has taken her son to each
Bruin home game since. “He’s a huge fan,” she says. “He enjoys it so much, and for
me, it’s a chance rebuild in his life the memories he was robbed of — to give
him the childhood that he didn’t have for so long.”

Jackson’s brain tumor remains
inoperable; for now, there are regular scans to make sure it hasn’t progressed,
along with intensive physical therapy and pain management. But considering what
life before UCLA was like, Sara Verner is thrilled. “I get to see the magic in
him now,” she says. “He really is the happiest kid, which is a testament to his
fight and to the human spirit. I’ve committed that with this second chance, we’re
going to make lasting memories.”

More UCLA Kid Captain Stories

Thu, Jan 9 8:30am · Coordinated care helped one infant thrive

Mom Brittani Clark looks on as her daughter, Nia, is examined by Porter Ranch pediatrician, Dr. Allison Guimera, at Nia’s 1 year appointment. Photo by Reed Hutchinson PhotoGraphics

Three days after delivering at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Brittani Clark, a pediatric nurse practitioner, brought in her newborn daughter, Nia, for her first appointment with Dr. Allison Guimera in the Porter Ranch office. Dr. Guimera weighed and examined Nia and talked to Brittani about infant care. Similar well child visits continued at regular intervals until Nia was about 2 months old.

Then, right before Thanksgiving in 2018, Brittani says Nia vomited several times after her evening feedings. Brittani called the pediatrics office and spoke to an on-call physician, who told her to bring in Nia the next day if her symptoms continued.

While Nia wasn’t vomiting the next morning, Brittani noticed that her diaper was lighter than usual. Dr. Guimera saw Nia that day, and was concerned enough about her symptoms to order an urgent ultrasound, which was performed at UCLA’s Santa Clarita imaging center.

Afterward, the radiologist called Dr. Guimera to tell her that the study indicated pyloric stenosis, a condition in which a valve between the stomach and the small intestine blocks food from moving through the digestive tract. The recommended treatment is surgery.

Dr. Guimera called Brittani and told her the diagnosis. She then asked her to bring Nia to UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, where she could be directly admitted and have the procedure within 24 hours. The surgery was successful, and after Nia was discharged, Dr. Guimera monitored her to make sure she was healthy and gaining weight.

The office again coordinated Nia’s care when she was 7 months old and needed to see a pediatric neurologist. When Dr. Guimera wasn’t available, her colleague, Dr. Militello, stepped in to handle the referral and check on Nia after she was admitted to the hospital.

In both cases, Brittani says, the entire system worked well.

“Dr. Guimera and the Porter Ranch office were easy to reach and ready to coordinate Nia’s care,” Brittani says, “and the hospital team explained everything so that even family members without a medical background could understand what was going on.”

Since then, Dr. Guimera has continued to see Nia for well visits. At her recent 1-year-old checkup, Nia smiled and gave her doctor a high-five.

“In pediatrics, it’s important to establish trust with both the patient and their parents,” Dr. Guimera says. “I want families to think of me as the leader of their child’s health care team, and to consider our office their medical home.”


This content ran in the Winter 2020 issue of The Checkup, a UCLA Health community newsletter on how to live your healthiest live.

Wed, Jan 8 12:51pm · Unexpected Friends

“I was on the fourth floor for three months waiting for my lung transplant,” recalls Carolene Newton-Mosley, a patient at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Carolene had pulmonary fibrosis and made an unexpected group of friends. “I had the window, and I could see a UCLA Fraternity. One of my nurses knew someone at the frat and told them I was enjoying watching them. So they made a sign for me that they hung up on their roof. It said to ‘Keep up the good work and your good spirit. You rock.’ They also came to visit me twice. They brought me flowers and a bear. They stayed for a long time and talked with me. Now, I have my lung transplant, and I hope to go home for the holidays.”

Fri, Jan 3 6:04pm · 'Where Are The Reindeer?'

“Where are Santa’s reindeer?” wonders eight-year-old Arturo Hernandez. Santa Claus and the Santa Monica Fire Department visited patients at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital in Santa Monica. Ignicia Varela, Arturo’s mother, reveals Santa’s answer, “They are on the roof. Santa arrives in a helicopter.” She continues, “We’ve been here for more than a year. Arturo has a sarcoma, cancer, in his right leg. He was so happy to see Santa. This visit is encouraging to all the children in the hospital. The gifts they give are a great joy for us parents. They gave Arturo a monster truck, and he really likes those. We’ll take him to a park to play with it there when we get home.”

Fri, Jan 3 6:00pm · Decorating to Feel Like Home

“The hospital doesn’t feel like home, and I think when you get decorations, it makes you feel more comfortable,” reflects 15-year-old Mac Bailey. Mac decorated rooms through Once Upon A Room at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital in Santa Monica with his sister, 17-year-old Lily Bailey. Lily says, “I had surgery on my back when I was a kid. I’ve seen what a difference it makes to have a room decorated, especially during the holiday season. I think Once Upon A Room makes a world of difference in a patient’s spirits. I think these decorations will help this boy feel more calm, comfortable and happier on Christmas morning.”

Fri, Jan 3 5:55pm · Volunteer Luncheon

“This is our annual holiday recognition event to honor many of our volunteers,” explains Carey McCarthy (not pictured), director of volunteers at UCLA Health. “We have some volunteers who are serving today and some people who came in special for this event. We want to let the volunteers know how much they’re appreciated and have a day just for them. We try to make this enjoyable, so the volunteers can get to know each other and have a support system in place. We play games, we do holiday bingo, and we have a lot of fun.”

Fri, Jan 3 5:53pm · Enjoying Life Outside the Room

“This encourages the kids to be a little more happy,” smiles Magaly Martinez, mother to 16-month-old Milani Martinez. The family enjoyed a surprise visit from Santa Claus during the annual UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital holiday party. “We really enjoy these events because they’re something that helps the kids out a lot. They come out from their rooms and get to enjoy themselves. Milani is a TPN patient, which means she gets her nutrition through an IV line. She got an infection, so we came in. It’s going pretty good.”