Since joining the Children’s National team in July 2015, Emily Graf, PA-C, MSHS, has thoroughly enjoyed working on the Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) unit and with our inpatient patients in 4 East.
As a Physician Assistant, Emily is responsible for working with Children’s National “high-risk” leukemia patients. These patients have typically been diagnosed with leukemia previously, and are having a difficult time getting into remission, or relapsed after being in remission for a short period of time. Treatment for these high-risk patients sometimes includes a BMT, and Emily works with the patients and families to make sure that they understand the process, and conducts tests to ensure the patients will be able to handle the treatment. Because the BMT process includes high doses of chemotherapy to kill cancerous cells and then transplantation of stem cells into a patient, there’s a high risk for infection during recovery, and the patient is watched extremely closely. Emily helps medically manage these patients throughout their treatment process, and the patients can spend several weeks in the hospital recovering. Occasionally, she sees patients in our outpatient clinics to make sure that they’re doing well after discharge from the transplant.
Building Strong Relationships
Although working with children who have leukemia or other blood disorders can be challenging and trying, Emily says that “a lot of satisfaction comes from knowing that my team and I are doing everything in our power to help them. It’s also so rewarding to see how positive and resilient the children are, even though this process can be trying on them.” Additionally, Emily says that the BMT team is so close knit that if there is a tragic experience, the support system within the team helps everyone get through it and reminds them why they’re working at Children’s National.
Because the BMT process can take a while, Emily and her patients and families build strong relationships that last throughout the treatment, and beyond. It’s her goal to ensure that families and patients aren’t afraid to ask questions or voice concerns, and that they see Emily as an advocate for their care. “I’ll go through any necessary leaps and bounds to ensure that my patients are taken care of. It’s my priority to make sure the patients and families are always treated as VIPs after everything they’ve been through.” One of the most rewarding experiences Emily has had at Children’s National was when a very sick child turned a corner in their recovery, and began to improve. “To see them in the outpatient clinic after they spent so much time in our inpatient unit, happy and doing normal kid stuff, is the most rewarding thing I can imagine.”
Doing it for the “Little Superheroes”
Part of what Emily enjoys most about working at Children’s National are the activities the organization provides for our patients and families. “From dressing up as unicorns on Halloween, to playing make believe and helping the children escape for a while, it’s important to make this a safe and fun place for everyone being treated here.” Another aspect is the teamwork shown by different areas of the organization. Emily recalls one patient who was undergoing a procedure being scared because they did not have a parent at the hospital for support. So Emily and the Child Life team sprang into action to help make sure the patient’s mother had transportation to the hospital in time to be there for her child. “It’s so reassuring to know that our children are as comfortable as possible, and the care teams are using all of the resources available to make it that way.”
Emily was recognized by the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) with the 2016 Excellence in Patient-Family Centered Care Award after being nominated by one of her patient’s parents. This award was established to recognize and honor individuals, medical units or teams at Children’s National who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to delivering patient-family centered care. When Emily found out she was nominated, much less won the award, all she could say was, “It just blew my mind that the parents of a patient took the time out of their busy, hectic time at Children’s National to nominate me. I was able thank the patient and family who provided the nomination, and it was a very emotional moment. This means the world to me, and I’m so deeply touched. I love having a positive influence on these little superheroes, and there’s nothing else that I would rather do.”