UIHC Stead Youth Advisory Council celebrates 20 years of making care better

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital Youth Advisory Council, which celebrates its 20th year, consists of former and current patients who provide input and planning on Stead operations.


Joseph Cress

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital is seen before the Iowa/North Texas game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Jordan Prochnow, News Reporter

The Youth Advisory Council of the Stead Family Children’s Hospital celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, providing assistance and input to administrators on hospital operations.

The council consists of former and current Stead patients — or their siblings — from ages 12 to 18. The council members work to enhance the patients’ care and experience by collaborating with child-life specialists and other hospital staff.

“Fun is a big part of health care for children, and that’s what our child-life team brings to life,” said Tami Pollari, the Stead director of patient- and family-centered services. “That’s always a goal. They help us find the fun in health care.”

Throughout its 20 years, the council has implemented a variety of elements to brighten up hospital life. In the early 2000s, it inspired what is known across the UI Hospitals & Clinics as the À la Carte Room Service, a convenient and all-hours way for patients to order meals. The council also created Stead’s mascot, Perky the Hawk, Herky’s cousin. Most notably, the council had influence on the design of the new Stead facility.

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Former council member Sarah Henderson said working on the panel provided her with a support system after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“We became really close as a group,” se said. “It became a little squad of people who understood what was going on, which I was lacking in high school after being diagnosed.”

The council’s long-standing goals are focused on ensuring teenage patients know who their nurses and specialists are, improving quality and enjoyment of care, and allowing patients to feel welcome and at home in the facility.

“The overarching philosophy of care for longer than the 20 years we’ve had the council has been patient- and family-centered care,” Pollari said. “We believe in partnerships with patients and families because we know there’s a mutual benefit for them and the hospital. They really bring that philosophy to life and hold us accountable for it, which improves safety and experience of care.”

Council member Christopher Turnis said being on the panel shows him that as a patient, his opinions and concerns matter.

“[The council] has shown me I’m a responsible part of my medical team,” he said. “I help express concerns of patients & families. [The council] makes me feel like I play a part in helping advocate for myself & other patients at Stead, and it has helped me feel more in control of my medical care.”

Those involved with the council understand how it has and will affect patients at the hospital.

“I think teenagers in general need empowerment, and I think that they need to know that their voices will be heard and that they are shaping the world,” Henderson said. “You’re at a vulnerable stage where you don’t have a say in your life and what’s happening, and especially if you have a illness, having adults tell you that you’re important really helps.”