Caroline Obert, program manager, Marsha B. Freed Cardiology Teen and Adult Resource Room, Cardiac Inpatient Unit
What drew you to this work?
I started at Boston Children’s 13 years ago as an administrative assistant in the Child Life Department while I was pursuing a graduate degree in early childhood education. I always knew I wanted to work with children, but I thought I’d be working as a teacher with 5- and 6-year-olds – never in a hospital. But I loved Child Life because it was the “fun department” where I could be behind-the-scenes, supporting a mission I truly believed in.
I quickly discovered my favorite part of the job was escaping the Wolbach basement to interact with patients and families in the lobby, cafeteria or at events in the Patient Entertainment Center (PEC). I’m too much of a people person to be in an office all day. So when a part-time position opened up in the Marsha B. Freed Cardiology Teen and Adult Resource Room, I excitedly applied. I came into what was essentially an empty room with medical books and two computers. There was no manual or official orientation. It was a bit overwhelming, but exciting to figure out where we were going to go with this.
Ten years later, I still love being on an inpatient floor, and I still love helping teens and parents. The conversations you have with teen patients are very different from those you’d have with young children — they have more questions and understand so much more.
Tell us about the resource room.
The purpose of this space is to offer support programs for teen patients, parents and families in inpatient cardiology. We coordinate a variety of programs —breakfast treats, care bags, parent coffee hours, parent chair massage, Reiki, scrapbooking, beading, computers — and so much more. Our best ideas come from families. It’s a small room, but we have a lot going on.
Ultimately, it’s about bringing people together and offering people a safe space on the unit. Our long-term families especially appreciate having a warm and welcoming space as a reprieve.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I never know what a day will bring. Sometimes there’ll be a big group all at once for a pizza or ice cream party, and other times just a few people will be in and out throughout the course of the day. Parents often wander in to escape the bed space and will grab a mint, a movie, a package of soft tissues, a treat from the giveaway basket or just say “hi.” Others may be looking for an opportunity to really talk — about their child, or a decision they have to make or how they’re going to talk to a doctor. I let them gather their thoughts and lend a listening ear.
The cardiovascular program has grown so much. In turn, the needs of the floor have changed, as has the function of the space. Sometimes it’s hard to define the role, in part because I’m utilized in many different ways by many different people. But I am quite connected to patients and families on both 8 East and 8 South and work closely with the interdisciplinary team. After 13 years here at Boston Children’s, I can read people pretty quickly and recognize the importance of making appropriate referrals to Child Life Services, Social Work, Psychiatry or Chaplaincy. I think we all support each other the best we can.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Without question, I am driven every day by the relationships I build with families. It’s so special to provide that safe place for patients and parents to laugh or cry or just “be.” I love bringing people together, so I especially love coordinating events that donors want everyone — patients, families and staff — to enjoy. The days can be long and hard, and it’s the little things that brighten our days.