Telling her story: Employee lends a listening ear to patients, families in need

April 2, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Susan Tell helps families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by scheduling appointments for Michigan Medicine’s two autism clinics.

Thankful. Productive. Helpful.

These are the words Susan Tell, patient services senior, used to describe how her job makes her feel. With her caring and colorful personality, Tell spent more than two decades at Michigan Medicine in the pediatric cardiothoracic unit.

After looking for a change, she switched roles — taking on a new position that allows her to work with a different patient population.

Tell now helps families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by scheduling appointments for Michigan Medicine’s two autism clinics, the Multidisciplinary Developmental Evaluation Clinic (M-DEC) in the Division of Pediatric Neurology and the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics clinic (DBP).

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, here’s a closer look at Tell’s work and how she lends a helping hand to those who need it.

A listening ear is a caring ear

“I love this work,” said Tell. “One of the most rewarding parts of my job is helping to make something very difficult a little bit easier for our patients and families.”

Scheduling can be a challenge due to the clinic’s high demand, as families from all over the country request appointments with top specialists at Michigan Medicine. Tell and her colleagues are now scheduling appointments approximately nine months out.

“Scheduling can be a stressful time for both patients and families. So, before an appointment I introduce myself and say ‘hi.’ By then we have talked on the phone numerous times and I know if they are nervous,” said Tell. “Then after the appointment, I help them move forward and secure the right therapies for their child.”

Tell said the amount of paperwork and resources available can make it overwhelming for parents and their kids.

“There seem to be a ton of hoops to jump through just to get treatment that could potentially change the course of their lives,” Tell said. “So I just pass along information and then, even more importantly, listen. By giving my best attention to people expressing their thoughts, concerns and fears, I can better understand how to help them.”

Serving as a resource

As with colleagues across the organization, Tell makes any family’s needs her top priority.

Therefore, with the assistance of Jenny Radesky, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and developmental behavior, Tell works hard to understand how to advise people both before and after diagnosis of ASD.

“I stay up-to-date on insurance requirements, what sort of support systems are available in area schools and other important resources,” Tell said.

For personal mental balance and to better serve the families, Tell also finds fun projects to work on. She’s currently creating a list of ASD-friendly dentists.

Everyone wants a superpower

When Headlines asked Tell what one superpower would she love to have, she quickly conjured up some warm thoughts.

“I’d love to teleport to Bora Bora on all of my breaks!” Tell said.

But when she thought more seriously about it, she still displayed warmth — just in a different way.

“It would be nice to zap some understanding into bystanders who are judging parents of kids with ASD when they’re having a hard time in public,” Tell said. “Just because a child is struggling doesn’t mean the parent has failed. With ASD, there’s a degree of overwhelming internal disorganization that bystanders can’t possibly imagine.

“If I can relieve that stress just a little bit, I’ve done my job.”

Click here to learn more about ASD and treatment options at Michigan Medicine.