One of the best parts of Susan Patcha’s job as a CHOC at Mission Hospital nurse is watching parents leave the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with their healthy new baby.
“What keeps me here is the smile on a parent’s face as they hold their baby for the first time,” she says. “This overwhelming joy is magnified when they unite as a family on discharge day and enter the world grinning ear-to-ear.”
CHOC is grinning this month too as CHOC Mission celebrates its 25th anniversary. Opened in 1993, the children’s hospital operates on the fifth floor of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. The 54-bed facility is the only dedicated facility for pediatrics in south Orange County, surrounding coastal areas and north San Diego County.
CHOC Mission’s stellar reputation made joining the CHOC health system an easy decision for Susan in 1999.
“I felt right at home in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and felt warmly welcomed as a part of the team,” she says. “Working with babies is the best job in the world. Working with their parents and families makes it the most rewarding job.”
Susan’s connection to CHOC Mission deepened 13 years ago. After a high-risk pregnancy requiring months of bed rest, her twins were born about five weeks early and spent eight days receiving care in the NICU at CHOC Mission.
“I felt relieved that they would be taken care of by my friends in my hospital,” she says.
When she returned to work after maternity leave, Susan had a keener understanding of what her patients’ mothers were feeling and she incorporated that knowledge into her care of the entire family.
“I realized before I had no idea what these women go through and how sad it is to be separated from your child,” she says. “I tried to share a little bit of my story, so they would know that I understood and was going to help them through it, and that their baby would be OK. I think it helped me be a better nurse to go through the whole experience.”
Today, Susan wears several hats at CHOC Mission. Not only is she the discharge coordinator in the NICU, but she also provides direct patient care there and she’s the lead lactation consultant.
A desire to help is among the forces that pushed Susan toward a career in nursing. Already from a family of nurses, Susan was greatly impressed by the team that cared for her father when he suffered a heart attack decades ago.
“I was inspired and amazed by the collaborative team effort that went into caring for my dad,” she says. “The actions and words of this group of nurses, doctors, and others not only changed my dad’s life, but every member of my family and our circle of friends. It was then that I decided I wanted to be a part of the health care team.”
And Susan found her home at CHOC Mission.
“We are the experts of children in our neighborhood,” she says. “We have provided a level of care to our patients and families that I believe they don’t receive elsewhere. We strive to be better and to continue to learn new practices and improve our care.”
And now with CHOC Mission celebrating a quarter century of service to the community, Susan feels great pride.
“It’s really exciting for me,” she says. “I’m proud to have been here for 18 of those years, and I’m proud that we’ve been here for the community, and that CHOC Mission was here for my family when we needed them.”