Susan Marks, LCSW, sits in a cheery, sun-filled room on the seventh floor of the N.C. Children’s Hospital. She smiles as she describes her first several weeks on the job as a project coordinator for patients and families.
“My day here is just one beautiful moment after another,” she says. “I love what I do.”
In her role, Marks works in a variety of ways to ensure that the care and services provided at the hospital are centered on the needs of the patient and family. She does this through her leadership of the Family Advisory Board, the parent rounding program, coordination of donor gifts and working closely with staff to identify any opportunities for improvement.
Prior to beginning her new position in January, Marks served as a volunteer at UNC Children’s.
“My background is in social work, and I always worked with adults until I had kids of my own,” Marks says. “I started working with kids years ago, and I just loved being around them – volunteering at the hospital seemed like such a natural fit, and it’s turned into an amazing job.”
The Family Advisory Board advocates for, promotes and supports patient- and family-centered care within the hospital through collaboration with hospital administration and staff, both inpatient and outpatient. Through the board, Marks works with parents, former patients, community partners and hospital staff members to gather feedback and recommend improvements and new programming to support families in the hospital.
“Our work is all about creating a meaningful relationship between our staff, patients and families,” Marks says. “The work we do here is about more than just providing the best care; it’s about providing an experience where parents and siblings feel supported, welcomed and active in their child’s care.”
The board hopes to create a formalized sibling support program in the next year. Marks says that support for families with multiple children, whether through providing a safe place for siblings to stay during appointments or rounds, or sharing coping and conversation techniques with parents, is essential to the well-being of the family. The board is also working on a program to recognize and reward staff for providing expert and empathetic care.
Marks also works with donors to meet the needs of patients and families – and to spread cheer along the way.
“The donor support here is so critical to lightening the load of a stressful experience for our families,” she says. “I can’t tell you how much a little girl’s attitude will change with something as simple as a Frozen-themed pillowcase instead of the normal white one.”
“Little things like pillowcases and toys, combined with the support we’re able to give to families to alleviate the financial burden of parking, travel and meals make this place special. What sets us apart is the quality of the care that patients receive, and how we care for families as a whole.”