There are two things Caleb Nabholz knows better than your average 6-year-old. One is heavy machinery, the kind you see on construction sites, the kind his dad Jake Nabholz gets to work around. The very sight of them makes Caleb light up like Christmas.
The other thing Caleb knows, however subconsciously, is the love of a family, both given and received. It’s there in the way he shadows his dad and when he plays with his sisters Kate, 10, and Emily, 8. It was there in the hug he shared with his mom on the first day of kindergarten.
What’s less familiar to Caleb is the breadth of his family, a group that extends beyond his home in Conway to Little Rock and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he spent almost five months after being born nine weeks premature, with complications typical of a baby born 14 weeks ahead of term.
“You could tell the medical team was very invested in his well-being, just trying to give him the best,” says Caleb’s mother Marisa Nabholz. “They went above and beyond, trying to do everything to get him healthy so that we could bring him home.”
Marisa’s voice is steady as she describes the closing stages of her pregnancy — how her water broke at 22 weeks, how she’d carry Caleb until 31.5 weeks, how his lungs didn’t develop properly. It’s less terrifying to talk about now, but as it happened, it was the strength of others that got the young couple through.
“The nurses were probably the ones that made the biggest difference,” says Jake. “Children’s has great doctors, but when you leave to go to the cafeteria or something like that, those nurses are the ones that are there with your little guy.”
As they work in the only Level 4 NICU in the state, Children’s preemie nurses are a special breed, highly skilled in the care of newborns routinely measured in ounces, not pounds. They’re notoriously protective of these tiny charges, no matter how long it takes them to grow strong or how dire the circumstances.
Caleb was no different. Four primary care nurses signed up to stand watch over him, and they became his adoptive aunties by the time he finally went home. Two still communicate with the Nabholzes regularly.
“[One nurse’s] daughter is actually in Caleb’s class at school right now, so we see them on a regular basis,” Marisa says. “I keep up with another [nurse] through Facebook and see how she’s doing. She has two children of her own now.”
“It’s funny, this is six years ago and we’ve still got a great bond with them,” Jake says.
Arkansas Children’s Director of Nursing Excellence Amy Huett is a ball of energy held together by a giggle. The Conway native has been with the hospital 17 years, 14 of them coming before the meeting that changed her professional life forever.
“I got called into my chief nursing officer Lee Anne Eddy’s office and she says, ‘You have an opportunity,’” Huett says with her trademark laugh.
nurses at Arkansas Children’s Hospital
of hospitals worldwide receive magnet status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center
Arkansas Children’s Hospital has had
nursing graduates receive additional
training through the Versant New Graduate RN Residency Program.
That opportunity was to lead Children’s nursing corps to Magnet status, a rating that represents the highest level of daily operational excellence. Presented by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center, it’s the ultimate mark of distinction a hospital’s nursing team can receive.
“I knew what Magnet meant; I knew what it meant not only to our organization but to our nursing staff and to me,” Huett says. “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, but the most amazing job I’ve ever had.”
As with all elite distinctions, achieving Magnet status is so tough it borders on the unrealistic. There are 69 measurements that must be met, with criteria drawn from the best nursing practices from around the world. All measurements must be documented, many of them with data that goes back years.
“In very simple terms, they looked at everything from how we interact with our patients and families to how we interact with each other, how we interact with our inner professional staff,” Huett says. “They look at every nook, cranny, drawer and closet that you have.”
The application and related ongoing nursing education, training and certification requires a significant investment, and so part of Huett’s effort was finding a backer who’d help fuel the drive toward Magnet status. It was one of the easiest fundraising calls ever made.
“My grandpa was on the board at Children’s for about 18 years or so,” says Jake, executive vice president of Nabholz Construction, namesake of the Nabholz Charitable Foundation. “When we went through our experience, it just took things to a whole new level. You really learn to appreciate what we have right here in our backyard.
“[Children’s was] really good about outlaying the need. Once we heard about it, we were all in.”
The latter stage of the certification process involved Children’s hosting a delegation of the certifying body to conduct interviews and see personnel in action. Prior to that visit, Huett ingrained the hospital’s 1,400 nurses with a simple rallying cry.
“I really framed it, and it’s true, as work that they’re doing every day,” she says. “That was really the stretch for them, [these nurses] don’t think what they do is extraordinary. My job was to get them to see that it was, that it was not what you would see at just any old hospital. They go above and beyond for their patients and families every single day.
“I didn’t feel like I was selling them a bill of goods that I didn’t get behind myself. I believed it in my heart and soul; we were the best.”
Moments and Miracles
The hospital captured on video the moment in March when the certifying body called with its findings. Nurses packing an auditorium erupted as Arkansas Children’s Hospital was conferred Magnet status, placing it among just 6 percent of all hospitals on the planet. Huett can be seen on camera hugging anyone she can reach and weeping with joy.
“What was amazing was watching our staff recognize that we were already a Magnet hospital,” she says. “They were just going to come in and give us the award for it.
“Our community support, people like Marisa and Jake giving their time and resources to support nursing excellence at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, are critical to sustaining the success of this program.”
Magnet recertification doesn’t happen for four years, but Jake and Marisa are already on to another major volunteer effort at the hospital. The couple serves as chairpersons for the 2017 Miracle Ball, a black-tie gala sponsored by the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, that is expected to raise more than $500,000.
It’s a lot of work, but one look at Caleb running through the house completely healthy, with no trace of his difficult start in life, and the parents just shrug. Family looks out for family.
“To think that you could be helping others who are going through a similar thing that you’ve gone through, knowing that maybe in some way this can help them have the positive outcome that we’ve had,” Marisa says, “that’s so important, so meaningful.”
A pause; then Jake adds, softly, “I just want to make sure that Children’s knows that we are very grateful.”
Saturday, Dec. 9
Arkansas Children's Hospital
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