Home at HSC. Those are the first words residents see when they enter the doors of the area’s first pediatric and young adult long-term care residence – The HSC Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). The SNF is housed within The HSC Pediatric Center, a pediatric specialty hospital in Washington, DC, which for over 135 years has provided services for children from infancy through age 21. The HSC Pediatric Center provides easy access to a range of family-centered medical and therapy services to meet the care needs for children who are leaving a traditional hospital and aren’t quite ready to be cared for at home.

The HSC Pediatric Center is where Christine Mesa, a Registered Nurse, has spent the majority of her career caring for the most vulnerable young people. The patients at The HSC Pediatric Center often require more specialized care, rehabilitative services and support for their complex and chronic conditions. Nurse Mesa thus was the perfect person to join the new HSC Skilled Nursing Facility as the Director of Nursing when it opened in August 2019.

At The HSC SNF, residents up to the age of 21 who are unable to live at home due to their medical condition (such as being technology-dependent or uninterrupted care is needed) can feel at home in a residential setting that offers continuous 24/7 nursing and medical care. Common examples of our residents’ conditions may include heart anomalies, chronic lung disease, digestive disorders, conditions associated with prematurity, seizure disorders, long-term parenteral nutrition (TPN), among other chronic disorders.

Ms. Christine, as HSC patients and residents lovingly call her,started her journey into nursing when she volunteered in high school as a Candy Striper. She was proud to wear her red and white striped uniform, and used her gentle presence and smile tocalm and assure patients and their families. Ms. Christine realized that being away from home and familiar settings created fear. Her biggest contribution was to do what she could to help her patients feel that no matter where they were, they were cared for as if they were at home.

Home is much more than just a place where one lives. For a child, it’s where their room is filled with their favorite toys, posters, and pictures. It’s where they feel safe and enjoy spending time with their family and friends. So, at The HSC SNF, nurses, doctors and therapists happily recreate this sense of “home”. Ms. Christine shared, Not only is care and treatment personalized and family-centered, we also individualize our resident’s space. One of our current residents has her family photos and stuffed animals displayed in her semi-private room.”

While caring for residents at The HSC SNF, staff also become family. Most recently, Ms. Christine remembers a moment during a ceremony to open The HSC SNF. A resident’s mother was asked to provide a few words to guests. In the audience were government officials, hospital executives, community partners, and staff. The mom became overwhelmed with emotion and found it difficult to deliver her prepared speech, nervously looking down at the paper, but finding her voice failing her. Ms. Christine knew how important this moment was to her and when she saw her angst, knew she needed to join her by her side. The mom asked her to speak, entrusting her words to her. Ms. Christine recounts, “I wanted to make sure she knew I was there for her, we’re always here for her.

As Ms. Christine reminisces on her 25 years of work at HSC, she smiles and is reminded of her favorite quote from Maya Angelou, At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” She went on to say,And isn’t this just what home and family are? You won’t remember the specifics of what was said or when it was done, but you will always remember what home and family feel like.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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