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For Black History Month, this February #WeAreCookChildrens will feature various Black employees from around Cook Children's and spotlight what brought them here, as well as the impact they hope to have on the organization, our families and patients.
This week's #WeAreCookChildrens focuses on Dionne Crigler, director of Home Health Pharmacy.
"We take care of your kids like they are our own." That's the prescription of care that director of Home Health Pharmacy Dionne Crigler and her team fills for our patients.
While Dionne was a Cook Childrens employee first, in October 2019 she saw that same compassionate approach from the other side of the bed as a NICU parent.
With a son set to graduate high school and a new addition on the way, Dionne joked, "I'm a multitasker by nature and have to juggle multiple projects at a time at work. But, apparently, the universe knew I could only handle one kid at home at a time."
Her baby girl had her own timeline in mind though and arrived six weeks early. As she was prepping for her emergency C-section, Dionne told the entire staff at Andrews Women's Hospital at Baylor, "If she needs to go to the NICU, she's going to Cook Children's!"
With more than a decade of firsthand experience here in our Home Health pharmacy at that point and as director of that department since 2011, Dionne knew the excellent hands that her baby would be in.
"There was no doubt that our NICU would be where she stay," Dionne said. "And my faith in that team of nurses was completely founded. In our three-week stay in the NICU, we had maybe 30 different nurses. And I tell you, hands down, every single nurse that came through that door was phenomenal."
But one of those dozens stood out. "I will always remember Cindi Pace. She was the nurse who literally came in, got my daughter to feed the entire bottle for the first time," Dionne recalled. "I think she sat there with her for literally like 45 minutes to an hour, trying to go down 20 mils of volume. I mean, her patience was...," she paused mid-sentence as her voice cracked. "I can't say enough about what that meant to us."
Just by looking at the now 16-month-old, you wouldn't know the weeks-long medical journey that began her daughter's life. With freshly-made bows on her head, handmade by Dionne herself, this little girl is 100 percent the typical toddler. One that's talkative, energetic and always trying to get some screen time when mom is on a Zoom or Skype call.
To this day, Dionne's championing of Cook Children's remains strong. "Even though I live about an hour away, I always brought my now-adult son here for most of his life and I wouldn't dream of taking my daughter anywhere else," she said. "Even just a couple of weeks ago, a friend, who lives in Carrollton, told me her son was positive for COVID. I told her if he needs to go to a hospital, drive him to Cook Children's and I will meet you there. I stand behind every aspect of care we give because it's the absolute best."
While patient interaction may differ for those at the medical center and home health, the common thread that runs through it all is patient-centeredness.
With 13 years of experience and leading a pharmacy that is responsible for medications for approximately 500 patients monthly all across the state of Texas, she is most proud of such care.
"We have earned the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), which is a badge of honor for us," Dionne shared. "This ACHC accreditation is rooted in and given to programs that truly have a patient-centered approach. It definitely pushes us toward being more active with the patient, as well as, encouraging the parent to be active and present in that treatment plan for their child."
With a pharmacy that is a consistently involved in the care of their patients, it's a natural fit for them to be such a proactive partner. "We are with them throughout their care with regular parent communication about what is needed and if they are current on medications," Dionne said. "We don't wait for them to come to us to fill prescriptions, we go to them. Which is aligned with the model of care they've come to expect for Home Health."
In order to achieve that though, Dionne recognizes the need for a strong team of like-minded professionals and an organization that nurtures an environment that builds up employees. "Our team is here because they simply want to help kids be better," she explained. "Even though we bring different perspectives to our roles that mentality is always at our core. Plus, I want my team to be the best they can be also."
Her drive to inspire and grow such a team of empowered individuals is based upon her own path at Cook Children's. "Starting out as a staff pharmacist in 2008, my advancement and growth within Home Health was always welcome and encouraged," Dionne shared.
The ambition they saw in her to excel in her profession never wavered and, in fact, Cook Children's Home Health helped her realize a declaration she made many years ago. "In my first semester of pharmacy school, as I was getting an idea of what all the possibly options were out there for me, I made a decision," Dionne recalled. "I told my professor, 'I'm going to be an administrator of a pharmacy program.' I wanted to do more than fill prescriptions. I wanted to have a hand in how we shaped the care for the kids."
Dionne recognizes that her Home Health leadership, who built her up, is just following the lead of Cook Children's as an organization.
"The pharmacy profession is predominantly female but it is quite rare to have two Black female administrators in one organization," she observed about herself and Ozi Olowu, director of Pharmacy Medical Center. "From my experience, I believe it's indicative of how the organization approaches empowering their employees."
It's that whole experience of Dionne's – as an employee, a leader, a patient parent and a vocal proponent/cheerleader – why she's the embodiment of the phrase #WeAreCookChildrens.