By Karen Vance
Eileen McGuiggan learned more about hospitals than she really wanted to as she went in and out of Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.
McGuiggan's son, Jeffrey, was treated there for cystic fibrosis until his death at age 23.
Now, McGuiggan and nearly 100 family members are volunteering to make sure the experience is a positive one for families in similar situations.
"We've been hanging out at the hospital for years," the Groesbeck woman said.
"The hospital was an important part of our lives, and we were treated very well. This is a chance to give back."
While she was happy with most of her experiences at the medical center, there were a few policies she would have liked to change.
Then the hospital gave her the chance, with a spot on one of their family committees.
Patty Wells, director of family relations for the medical center, said the volunteer program is part of a five-year initiative to improve family-centered care.
"We have parents, some of them on a weekly basis, looking at our programs to insure we have what families really need," she said.
"You think you know what parents want, but until you really ask them, you don't."
Since the program's inception, the hospital has altered several things, including the way home and hospice care is delivered.
Parent groups are looking at things like how to better structure the newborn intensive care unit, Wells said.
Karen Gerbig, a resident of Dark County, about 90 miles northeast of Cincinnati, sits on the Family Advisory Council.
She has looked at everything from the need for valet parking for parents of multihandicapped children to how surgical waiting rooms should be arranged.
They've also suggested and brought about online charting for parents to chart their child's medical progress.
"(The program) is about improving communication between physicians and families," she said.
"You want so much to be an advocate for your child, but you don't want it to be a negative experience.
"We're changing the mindset away from 'we are the healthcare workers and we know what's best.' "
McGuiggan said the hospital administration is receptive to ideas the parents bring to them.
"The hospital has seen this as a way to improve care. They came to us. "We didn't go to them. There's a lot of guts in that," she said.
"It's nice as a parent to be acknowledged as the primary care giver of your own child."
Group chooses charity
The Tri-State League of Financial Institutions has chosen the Ronald McDonald House as its 2003 charity.
The trade group of 35 community banks and savings and loans held its April board meeting at the house as part of their fund-raising effort.
This is the third year for the group to designate a charity.
In the past, its members raised $1,000 for Habitat for Humanity and $1,300 for the Neediest Kids of All, said Donna Walker, president of the league.
Ronald McDonald House provides housing for families of children being treated at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.
Allen Howard is on vacation. Karen Vance will write "Some Good News" until he returns. If you have a "good news" story you would like to share, e-mail Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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