On November 30, VHA hosted its fifth Paediatric Interprofessional Education Symposium, also known as PIES Day, to bring together staff and service providers from various areas and roles at VHA, all of whom are involved in care for paediatric clients, to share and learn together with external partners. This year’s theme was Health Accessibility and Equity: Supportive Environments for Home Care. Keynote speakers from Michael Garron Hospital, Toronto Central Home and Community Care Support Services and VHA’s client partners gathered virtually to discuss ways to improve the paediatric care experience from both client and clinician perspectives.
COVID-19 Vaccination in Children
Dr. Janine McCready is an Infectious Disease Physician with Michael Garron Hospital. She joined this year’s PIES Day as the first keynote speaker to share insight on COVID-19 vaccination in children aged five to eleven. Dr. McCready first introduced the trial and approval processes for paediatric COVID-19 vaccines to highlight that vaccines are safe for children and that they provide maximum protection with minimum side effects. “From both professional and personal lenses, I am supportive of vaccinating kids in this age group: four million kids aged five to eleven have been vaccinated in the United States and nothing unexpected has popped up,” said Dr. McCready. “Both of my kids are vaccinated, one is eight years old and the other is just about to turn 5,” she added.
To further demonstrate the importance of vaccination for children, she then shared studies showed children have greater odds of transmitting COVID-19 to other household members, which could lead to more breakthrough infections. Further, in the United States, one-third of kids who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 were completely healthy. Dr. McCready also shared that there is a risk of post-COVID conditions in children that can affect their participation in activities and their quality of life. Dr. McCready also highlighted some key strategies for counselling parents on getting their kids vaccinated: being open, patient, and non-judgmental is necessary; make sure to listen to and address their specific concerns directly, and direct them to reliable, evident-based resources when appropriate.
Dr. McCready leveraged scientific data and firsthand experience throughout her presentation to show the safety of paediatric COVID-19 vaccines, emphasize the importance of getting kids vaccinated and to provide suggestions on how to discuss vaccines with parents.
The Caregiver Experience
Laura Williams, Client Partner and member of the Client and Carer Advisory Council at VHA who also works at UHN was a speaker at last year’s PIES Day. She joined as a keynote speaker once again this year, this time joined by her older son Connor Williams-McArthur. Bryson, Laura’s younger son and Connor’s brother, is a paediatric client with VHA. Laura and Connor shared their thoughts on creating positive experiences for home care clients and family members from the perspective of family caregivers.
“For some people, asking for help has always been a challenge; many of us were taught to be strong, to do what we need to do,” said Laura. She discussed the vulnerability, loss of control and lack of dignity family caregivers and clients may be experiencing. She encourages health professionals to go into clients’ homes as learners, not judgers; to listen to the needs of the family and client and try to empathize. Health professionals do not just provide care; it is the emotional support they bring to the family that makes a huge difference.
“You have a profound opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives. You have so much power in your role to help parents and other caregivers to be okay with asking for help,” Laura said. “You provide so much more than the care tasks you are performing.”
Laura and Connor shared that throughout their journey, Bryson has taught their family so much about the world and about who they are. They have become more resilient, have more hope in the plasticity of the brain and have a positive outlook for the future.
Panel Discussion: Finding and sharing the right resources and equipment with families
The final session of this year’s PIES Day was a panel discussion including Melissa Prochilo and Suzanne Gangnon, Care Coordinators with Toronto Central Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS); Helen Wang, Client Services Manager with Toronto Central HCCSS; Allyson Hoch, Occupational Therapist with VHA, and Laura Williams, member of VHA’s Client and Carer Advisory Council.
The panel shared their One Care Team model approach to supporting the cost of the care for medically complex children. Their responsibilities include advocacy, fostering partnerships such as building the Complex Care for Kids Ontario (CCKO) program and looking for available resources in the community for families. From a client’s point of view, Laura said she appreciates the clinicians’ needs assessment, coordination, and emotional support in securing equipment supply for her son. The panelists agreed that frequent and effective communication is crucial for care teams to understand the needs of families and to direct them to appropriate resources.