Helping Families Navigate Complex Care
Children’s National Hospital has cared for TjaMeika Davenport’s daughter, Kennedy, for more than 14 years. She had had at least 30 diagnoses and been seen by 15 departments and 30 specialties. TjaMeika channels her experiences into her job at Children’s National Hospital. She’s one of six staff parent navigators at our Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health. She helps families whose children require complex care understand the system and connect to important resources.
“It’s all about peer-to-peer support,” she says, “like a been-there, done-that, let-me-help-you-cut-your-learning-curve type of thing to help families in a compassionate, knowledgeable and empathetic way.”
Parent navigator support extends into the community. They help patient families advocate for their children’s education needs and access, for instance, to recreational events. They also help older children transition from pediatric to adult health care.
On a typical day, TjaMeika assesses patients’ health and educational needs, accompanies families to appointments, interfaces with case managers and social workers and holds parents’ hands in the emergency room. Sometimes the job is simply about listening.
“At Children’s National,” she says, “we have this concept of the family as the patient. Being a parent navigator is part of how we help the whole family. We can’t solve everything, but we can help them help their children be all they can be.”