Every patient transporter at a children's hospital develops a close bond with the many children they move several times a day. So, it's only fitting that these children receive a special gift from the staff once they complete their treatment and get ready to leave the hospital.
At a 475+ children's hospital in Ohio, Director of Patient Transportation Nathan Cotterell has created a unique gift when each child leaves the hospital. Two or three times each month, the staff will gather and celebrate as a child receives a T-shirt that resembles a Patient Transporter uniform. The T-shirt has the hospital's logo on the front. The words "Honorary Patient Transporter" are emblazoned on the back.
The Importance of Enhancing Children's Healthcare Experience
"One of the most important things about working in a hospital, but especially a children's hospital, is to ensure that our patients and their families have a great experience," Nathan says. "We see many of these children more than anyone else, with the possible exception of a nurse. We get to know and care for them, and we are rooting for them to recover."
While the average stay for a child is roughly one week, those who need continuous treatment for an illness can stay as long as 18 months. For children on dialysis or daily chemotherapy treatment, the transporter will move them multiple times for several weeks or months. Referred to as "frequent flyers" by the Patient Transport staff, a true friendship develops during the most difficult period of their young lives.
When it's time for a long-term patient to go home, any of the 61 Patient Transportation staff members can request a souvenir shirt from Nathan or the Assistant Director. On the day the child leaves, any staff member working on that day can write an inspirational message and sign the shirt.
"We feel we've been a big part of these children's lives, and we want to give them a special memento, so they understand we truly care about each and every one of them," he says.
How A Personal Touch Impacts Patients and Patient Transportation Staff
After returning to the hospital in 2016, Nathan started the T-shirt program in 2017. He saw the need for two reasons.
First, he wanted to create a program that would leave a lasting mark on the children. He noticed the joy surrounding children who receive large stuffed animals after going through surgery. He knew his team was an important part of the child's care and wanted them to be remembered.
But with a background working in adult and pediatric care, he also wanted to create some attention for his department within the hospital.
"Our department works behind the scenes, but we are also one of the larger departments in the hospital and often don't receive recognition for our work," he says. "Our staff works hard and cares deeply for these children, so I wanted to generate awareness of our services within the hospital. And it's been very good for staff morale."
Because transporters wear unique uniforms, he saw an opportunity to design a special T-shirt as a gift the child will remember. The T-shirts come in 25 bright colors, such as yellow, pink and orange. Since they know the child well, each staff member picks the color.
When treatment ends, an emotional ceremony is held for each long-term patient. Friends and family attend, and the child rings a large fire station bell to signify their treatment completion. That's when the child receives the T-shirt signed by their transporters and much of the staff.
Nathan says the staff has proof that the T-shirts are a valued prize. For those children who, unfortunately, must return to the hospital for additional treatment, they often bring their shirts with them.
"Those children purposely pack that shirt. It's something that gives them emotional support and an attachment to the people caring for them," Nathan says. "It's a little something that makes a difference in their lives."