Healthy Kids - Spring 2021

RUSSELL GAGU I , RN - BC Supervisor and Educator, Rady Children’s Hospital

up, reducing turnover and so much more, it’s patient care that continues to drive him. “I’m always on the floor, because I don’t want to lose that connection with patients,” he says. “I’m looking forward to continuing to perfect what I do. There are a lot of bigger things that Rady Children’s is doing with mental health. I know I picked the right organization to work for, and it’s great to know there are exciting new things to come.” “I see great value in having direct-care bedside staff involved at the leadership level.” As an undergraduate, Daniel Roderick, MSN, RN, CNL, CPEN, had sports medicine and medical school on the brain. Life took him into nonprofit work instead, but when Roderick decided to go back to school, his heart led him to nursing and patient care. He entered a master’s program that afforded him two rotations in the Emergency Department at Rady Children’s, and he never looked back. “When I started, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn and see something different every shift, and I really liked being able to take care of a patient and their family and provide the education they needed,” he says. Roderick started at Rady Children’s in the NewGrad Residency Program, a one-year comprehensive education and training programdesigned to transition registered nurses from students to safe, competent and professional health care practitioners. He’s been a go-getter from the start. “Right away, I foundmyself getting involved in extracurricular activities on the job—different committees, councils and precepting, which I love,” he says. As a new grad, Roderick took advantage of an opportunity to represent the ED on a Hospital-wide Code Blue subcommittee. Ever since, he has looked for new chances to learn and grow, working with physicians and more experienced nurses, conducting his own research, helping create new processes, and pushing himself clinically. Two years ago, Rady Children’s revised their shared leadership model for nursing and patient care services. It is made up of a variety of Hospital-wide councils, two of which Roderick is a member. “This is a way to share ideas and resources to work toward quality improvement using the tools that are available to us,” he explains. All this shared leadership work is done on top of Roderick’s full- time job at the ED bedside—and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve always said I want to keepmyself close to the bedside for as long as I can,” he says. “Having staff that keep their finger on the pulse of both is crucial tomake sure change can be enacted in a way that makes sense. Everything I learn in leadership councils goes directly back tomy practice. I can take my learning back so that the next time I’m in the unit, I’m able to share that knowledge withmy peers, and together we can provide excellent patient outcomes.” “I love empowering nurses to be their best, to love coming to work every day and to deliver the best patient care.” Alissa Blankenship, BSN, RN, is a born educator. She initially earned a degree in English. But a volunteering trip to Tanzania, where she helped with HIV/AIDS education and the formation of an orphanage, inspired her to seek all her passions within one profession: nursing. “I wanted to have a skill that could help people, so within a week after I returned from Tanzania, I was enrolled in prerequisites at a community college,” she says.

“If we can reach patients when they’re younger, maybe they won’t have to be here when they’re older.” In a previous life, Russell Gagui, RN-BC, was a headhunter. It was lucrative, but he discovered that what kept him fulfilled wasn’t the money—it was helping people who were unhappy in their current job find happiness in a new one. Gagui knew all too well the devastating repercussions of long-term unhappiness. His roommate, who had been his first friend when he moved to San Diego, died by suicide. “That was a big reason why I went into mental health nursing,” he says. “Not knowing what he was going through, not seeing it and not understanding it, made me want to use my skills to help people.” Gagui started his new career path as a mental health worker in a privately owned facility with inpatient voluntary, inpatient acute and child/ adolescent units. He gained experience, got his nursing degree and started at Rady Children’s in 2012. He’s now the nurse supervisor and educator in the inpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Services program. In this role, he took part in the opening of the Copley Psychiatric Emergency Department, and trained nurses from other departments as well as his own to staff it during the pandemic. Overall, he is grateful for the opportunity to grow the CAPS program to what it is today, to see patients improve in a short time and to see Rady Children’s increased commitment to providing a full range of mental health services for kids in need. “My joy is seeing that if we can reach patients when they’re younger, maybe they won’t have to be here when they’re older,” he says. “A lot of the kids that come here have been to multiple places and they hated it. My goal was to change that mindset. It’s great to watch them grow.” Although Gagui is now a supervisor and educator and is responsible for hiring staff, keeping morale


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