Bringing the fun: Teen Advisory Committee lifts up patients at Mott

July 25, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News,

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Children who come to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for care often spend long stretches of time as inpatients. To make these days a little more manageable, the Mott Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) works with hospital staff to plan activities designed to distract and entertain patients.

TAC is made up of current and former patients — so these teens know what it’s like to spend day-after-day in hospital rooms. Using their personal experiences, the TAC members provide departments with feedback on improving the experience for young patients.

“I like that as a teen, I can have an impact on improving the patient experience at this hospital,” said Emily Sedewitz, one of the teen advisors in TAC who is in her third year of volunteering. “It’s a great way to give back to the community.”

The TAC is managed by the Office of Patient Experience. OPE works with units and departments across Michigan Medicine to recruit, train and place patients on patient and family advisory councils like TAC.

Taking the fun to patients

For the TAC, it’s all about bringing the fun to patients, wherever they may be.

For instance, over the past few years, TAC members have learned about therapeutic horseback riding that can be achieved through the use of equine robotics and virtual reality technology. Through these means, patients that are unable to visit stables are now able to enjoy the feeling and freedom of riding horses through any scenery imaginable.

Recently, TAC also hosted a video game and pizza party for inpatients at Mott. More than 30 patients and families attended the party, where popular video games such as Just Dance, Mario Kart and Super Mario Smash Brothers were available to play.

One of the parents who attended said that her son who had surgery recently had been withdrawn and not eating much.

“This patient just seemed to relax and open up more after coming to the party,” said Darnysus Jackson, administrative manager for the Office of Patient Experience. “He came back for a few more slices of pizza and his mom was so happy to see his mood change.”

TAC also hosted a music therapy event during which advisors partnered with the music therapy team to talk about careers in music therapy. On top of that, patients had an opportunity to try out different instruments.

“We have the ability to make the hospital a friendlier place for patients,” said Kaitlin Barret-Huff, a teen advisor who has participated in TAC for the past four years. “It’s great to get to know the kids for who they are — and see them as much more than just patients.”

Sharing the teen perspective

The members of TAC participate in feedback sessions with different departments and groups who are launching new services or programs. The unique perspective provided by these youngsters ensures that the health care experience is tailored to a young patient’s needs.

The group has been pivotal in many systematic changes — from revising policies, to reframing what amenities are offered to chronically- or acutely-ill patients, to sharing insights on improving the transition of care from pediatric to adulthood. The team members also participate as leaders and partners in research to drive improvements that will have a positive impact well beyond Michigan Medicine — and even the state of Michigan.

Indeed, these efforts are already being recognized. TAC recently received the Planetree Scholar Award, which honors individuals and teams whose works and deeds inspire greater heights in person-centered health care. And several TAC members are members of the International Children’s Advisory Network (iCAN), an international research organization comprised of 19 chapters across the globe that advocates for children in health care.

“What is so special about these teens is that they are young enough to remember and explain what receiving care was like for them as children,” said Nancy Kuemin, volunteer coordinator for the Office of Patient Experience and lead for TAC. “They are respectful and thoughtful and they are able to tell us what they needed then and what they need now. It’s because of them that Michigan Medicine will be able to provide better care and better services as we move into the future.”

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