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Lessons Learned

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Erin Wells, RN
Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Cincinnati, OH, USA

"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." - Brian Gerald O'Driscoll

On January 15, 2014, the Pediatric Lung Transplant Program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital officially opened its doors. This journey has offered many lessons for our team. Here are a few worth sharing.

Communication really is key. Can you repeat that?

There is not a presentation we give inside or outside of the hospital that doesn't contain this as a slide or talking point. From communicating our vision to patient flow to education plans, the value of direct and honest communication can't be underestimated. It is also important to ensure the message is being delivered consistently across disciplines, specialties, and the institution. There has to be buy-in on every level in order for a project of this magnitude to be successful.

Never underestimate the value of a process map.

Our core team provided invaluable transplant experience. We knew the way this should work and it all made sense in our heads. The challenge was getting our ideas out of our heads and onto paper in a format that made sense to everyone else. Walking through every step, from referral to transition, and putting it in a visual format has made our processes more organized and efficient. It has challenged us to not always default to doing things a certain way because "that's how we have always done it". It has also helped us to identify potential areas of improvement and to really think about how we can change the outcome for our patients and families.

It really does take a village.

When you are lucky enough to have previously worked on established, well-oiled teams, you realize you sometimes took for granted the elements that made those systems work effortlessly. Starting over with a blank canvas is a completely different ball game. Think a life-sized game of Tetris with thousands of moving, interlocking pieces. It takes a strong, committed, and diverse team, combined with a sprinkle of crazy and a dash of fun, to make this sort of endeavor not just work, but work well.

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there.

It can be very intimidating to be the new kid on the block, especially when you are in a new neighborhood. No one knows who you are and you have to earn your street cred. The only way to do that is to put yourself out there. This is great advice especially for the next generation of transplant care team members. Offer to give a talk even if you hate public speaking. Find something that interests you, do the research, and write an abstract. Be willing to be a resource and share what you learn. Always look for ways to raise your own bar and push beyond your comfort zone. This will help to identify ways you can improve the care you give to your patients and their families. Most importantly, don't forget we all have something to learn from everyone we meet.

Always keep your eye on the prize.

At the end of the day, everything we do is to provide the best possible experience and outcomes for our patients and their families. The transplant life is not an easy one, but I truly believe it is a privilege to walk this journey with our patients and their families. I am humbled by the grace, strength and courage they display in the good times and bad, the highs and the lows, the big challenges and the small victories. Investing in what you do and finding what fills your cup is what makes the difference. ■

Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose

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