Nurse celebrates 35 years at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

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This year, Teresa Sheffer is celebrating 35 years at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.I always knew I wanted to work at Children’s, Teresa Sheffer.When Sheffer was finally able to get pregnant, her co-workers, who knew about her struggles, created a banner letting her know.Early in her career, she said, nurses were able to take their patients to the zoo or to events around town.She advises new nurses to find their passion and just stick with it

Teresa Sheffer says she ‘always wanted to work at Children’s’

When you find what you love, you stick with it. That’s just what Teresa Sheffer did after joining joining Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta 35 years ago.

“I always knew I wanted to work at Children’s,” Sheffer said. “We had a family friend whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer. And I went to visit her at Children at Scottish Rite when I was still in nursing school. I decided from there that this is where I’m going, this is where I want to work. This is where I’m going to work.”

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At the time, however, Sheffer and her husband lived and worked in Gainesville. “I worked on an adult cardiac floor for six months, and I could not wait to get out.”

The couple quit their jobs and moved to Atlanta. “I applied to Children’s, and haven’t regretted it or looked back since,” she said.

Early career

Sheffer started her career on the hematology and oncology floor at what was then Egleston Children’s Health Care System, working there for about five years.

“At that time we had primary patients, where you put your name on the door and every time those kids came in, if you were working, you are assigned to those to those children,” Sheffer said. “And I became very attached to not only the children but the families.”

In a definite sign of a different time, families knew the nurses so well they would let the caregivers take their children out of the hospital for fun excursions.

“Sometimes (the children) would be there for a week or weeks at a time,” Sheffer said. “And we would either take them to the zoo or we took them to Disney on Ice or whatever other event that might be happening in Atlanta.

“We really did celebrate the children when they were on the floor,” she continued. “If it’s Halloween, we dressed in Halloween costumes. Back then, my mother used to make me these little aprons that had big pockets on them, and she would always make sure I had had some for for each holiday, and the kids dressed up. And at night, if they couldn’t sleep, we would go get them and put them in wagons and bring them down to the nurse’s station, and they would sit with us while we did our charting.”

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Little handprints

Sheffer left Egleston to help open Children’s at Satellite Boulevard, an outpatient center that now includes access to pediatric specialists in endocrinology; ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology; general surgery; hepatology; lab; radiology; rheumatology; and scoliosis and spine. In addition, the facility offers ultrasound, overnight sleep studies and the Urgent Care Center.

“I was there for that opening, and I stayed there the longest time,” she said. She even has proof she was there at the beginning — her two daughters’ handprints are part of the campus.

“They invited the employees to bring their children when they were pouring the cement for the sidewalks and had all of our children put their handprints in the cement,” Sheffer said. “They are still visible today.

“For years, when we would go by that way going to the mall or something, the girls would say, ‘Let’s stop and see our handprints.’ Even my daughter who is a nurse at Egleston now will say, ‘I wonder if you can still see our handprint at Satellite Boulevard.’”

Where there’s a will, there’s a Will and Hope Award

Sheffer now works in the Transfer Center, where she documents and coordinates everyone from outlying facilities, other hospitals, doctors’ offices and the Urgent Care Center.

“Everybody has to come through the Transfer Center, and we document all of their information and then we put it on the corresponding board for whichever campus they’re going to,” she said. “Then we work right beside dispatch, so when somebody needs one of our ambulances to come to their facility, we help coordinate that, as well.”

It was her coordination skills that earned her the Hope and Will Award — which recognizes employees for going beyond the call of duty — in 2019.

Sheffer got a message from Northeast Georgia Medical Center informing her the father of an Egleston patient was at their facility, and he was dying.

The Egleston patient was admitted with an acute condition the same day his father went into hospice at Northeast Georgia. According to her nominator, Sheffer “spent significant time and numerous calls to get the pediatric patient accepted at the same adult facility as his father before he passed away.”

The nominator continued: “The extra effort and thought that she put into making this happen for that family is the very definition of what I believe it means to be a Children’s nurse. She ‘challenged what is’ to help this family in a very difficult time.”

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Advice for new nurses

Although Sheffer said a lot has changed since she became a nurse — “Now there’s just so many different specialties and areas” — her advice for new nurses is to do what she did.

“Find your passion,” she said. “Find something that strikes you as what you want to do, and just stick with it. I think we all have a path, it’s just that sometimes we have to find what it is.

“And then just love on those kids,” she concluded, “like nothing else.”

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