RMH-NY Strategic Growth: Ronald McDonald Family Rooms

Through the Lens of Kings County Family Room Manager, Odain Brissett.

Odain at Christmastime.

 

Kings County Family Room

Ronald McDonald House New York (RMH-NY) continues to grow and innovate, addressing the critical needs of families with children undergoing medical treatments. At the heart of its growth is the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Kings County, a sanctuary within the bustling Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. This family room offers a respite for caregivers, providing a warm and comforting environment during challenging times. Under the leadership of Odain Brissett, the Family Room has become a model of community support and operational efficiency, setting the stage for expansion into new locations at Metropolitan Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center.

Odain Brissett: From Temp Worker to Family Room Manager

Woody Odain and Sharon Carter Jones celebrate Halloween 2022!

Odain Brissett's journey with RMH-NY is a testament to dedication and growth. Originally from Jamaica, Odain moved to New York ten years ago and began his career with RMH-NY as a temporary worker in operations. His roles evolved from operations associate and van driver to a pivotal position in the volunteer department, where he admired and facilitated the essential work volunteers did for families. His experiences in these roles provided a solid foundation for his current position as Family Room Manager, overseeing operations at Kings County and the upcoming rooms at Metropolitan and Montefiore.

A working Odw

 

Early Challenges and Rapid Adaptation

When Odain started at Kings County, it was during the complex phase of reinstatement post-COVID. The Family Room's operations had to adapt quickly to new health protocols, ensuring safety while still providing essential services. Initially, the room operated on a limited schedule, gradually scaling up to meet the needs of the families. Odain's proactive approach, utilizing hospitality carts to deliver services directly to families and staff, helped build a sense of community and made the room's presence known throughout the hospital.

 

Odain celebrating the holidays with the RMH-NY staff.

 

Quoting Odain

"The best part of my day is making the coffee. I take so much pride in saying that we have the best coffee in all of Kings County."

 

Building a Supportive Community

T-shirt merchandise celebrating Black History Month at King's County.

 

A significant part of Odain's role involves fostering a supportive community within the hospital. By collaborating closely with hospital staff, he has been able to enhance the family experience significantly. For instance, during the early days post-COVID, the Family Room provided to-go packages for families who couldn't access regular amenities. This initiative not only supported the families but also alleviated some of the burdens on hospital staff, creating a collaborative environment focused on holistic care.

 

A Shout out to the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Elmhurst Hospital

Jen and Feng make up the amazing team at Elmhurst Family Room.

 

Deep in the heart of Queens, NY, Ronald McDonald House New York opened their second family room officially in 2022 at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. The Elmhurst Family Room is thriving and setting new goals of achievement for our family rooms to aspire to reach every day. Though much of the build and beginnings of the Elmhurst Family Room was in the wake of the Covid-19 virus’ out lash, RMH-NY leadership at the House and the Elmhurst  family room staff were able to get it open and serving families in record time.

Odain with fellow RMH-NY staffers during a holiday celebrating the holidays. 

 

Expansion to Metropolitan and Montefiore: A New Era of NYC Family Support

Cowboy Odian at Kings County with volunteer and the hospitality cart.

 

Ronald McDonald Family Room at Metropolitan Hospital

Odain and fellow RMH-NY staffers about to serve dinner.

 

The new Family Room at Metropolitan Hospital will be distinctively positioned within an outpatient pediatric clinic, catering to a different demographic compared to Kings County. This room will see a higher daily throughput, with over 100 families expected to pass through its doors each day. The design and operations will focus on managing this flow efficiently, ensuring that every family receives the respite and support they need. The larger 2000-square-foot space will allow for more comprehensive services, accommodating the greater number of families simultaneously.

Ronald McDonald Family Room at Montefiore Medical Center

The Ronald McDonald Family Room at Montefiore will offer a unique blend of services, including respite with sleeping quarters. This facility will feature two bedrooms, a living room, a full-size kitchen, play spaces, a nap area, and ADA-compliant bathrooms. The room's location in a separate building from the hospital will necessitate different navigation strategies for families, but it also provides a tranquil retreat away from the clinical environment. The diverse population at Montefiore, with a significant Middle Eastern demographic, will benefit from tailored services that respect and address their specific cultural needs.

 

Quoting Odain

"So, every location is so different. Every population is so different, and I like working with people as I said, that was one of the things that pulled me to working with volunteers in the past and that's what is driving me now… just reaching more people."

 

Overcoming Challenges of Expansion

Odain and the RMH-NY Van

 

Managing multiple Family Rooms for Ronald McDonald House New York presents its own set of challenges. Each hospital operates under different policies and serves diverse populations. For Odain, understanding these logistical differences and designing tailored programs for each location is crucial. For example, while Kings County serves a predominantly Caribbean population, Metropolitan will cater to a largely Hispanic community, and Montefiore will serve a substantial Middle Eastern demographic. These differences require customized approaches to service delivery, language support, and cultural sensitivity.

 

Odain and fellow volunteers  at 5 Boro Bike Tour

 

Quoting Odain

"Biggest challenge is, well, I don't want to say challenge, but sometimes, families have needs that we can't cater to. So, I say limited resources. For example, a family will ask for a car seat, or strollers and we don't usually have those on hand. If we do, it’s theirs. But I think the biggest challenge is saying no and understanding that we cannot do everything."

 

 Today Update from Kings County Family Room

The same morning this story was published Odain sent this story through about a happening the prior day at the Kings County Family Room:

"One of the pediatric doctors stopped me in the hallway today to inform me that baby Asher was admitted yesterday on his birthday. His mom was having a hard time, and they asked if we could do something to cheer them up. Fortunately, we had supplies from a previous donation. We customized a school bag for him using the Cricut machine and added books and some other goodies. Asher was asleep when we stopped by, so we presented it to his mother at his bedside to surprise Asher when he wakes up."

Whether it's a major holiday, a birthday, or a Tuesday, these are the types of requests that the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms are able to fulfill in a moment's notice.

Coordinating Efforts Across Locations

Strategic Hiring and Training

To ensure smooth operations across all locations, strategic hiring and comprehensive training have been pivotal. Odain, along with other leaders in the Programs department of the House, manages the recruitment of new staff, including the future coordinators for the Family Rooms at Metropolitan and Montefiore. These coordinators underwent extensive cross-training to understand the unique dynamics of each Family Room, ensuring consistency in service delivery. Early integration of these coordinators into their roles has facilitated a seamless transition and readiness to serve the diverse needs of the families.

Continuous Improvement Through Communication

Effective communication has been a cornerstone of the successful management of multiple Family Rooms. Regular coordination meetings and cross-collaborative efforts ensure that best practices are shared, and challenges are addressed promptly. For instance, the implementation of QR-coded request forms for NICU graduations at Kings County streamlined the process, making it easier for hospital staff to request support and for the Family Room team to respond efficiently.


The Heart of the Mission: Supporting Caregivers

Odain, Jillian, Sotirika, and Adnan

The primary goal of the Family Rooms is to provide caregivers with a comfortable, supportive environment where they can find respite from the stresses of hospital life. The benefits to caregivers are multifaceted:

Physical Comfort

Each Family Room is designed to offer a serene, home-like atmosphere where caregivers can relax, eat, and even sleep while staying only seconds away from their child in the hospital. This physical comfort is crucial in helping caregivers recharge, which in turn allows them to provide better support to their children.

Emotional Support

Beyond physical comfort, the Family Rooms offer emotional support through a community of fellow caregivers, staff, and uniquely trained volunteers who understand the specific challenges of having a child in the hospital. This support network can be a lifeline, providing encouragement and companionship during difficult times.

 Quoting Odain

"Providing families with the environment. It’s a new level of comfort. Provide them with a comfortable space for respite. Sometimes family just come to sit and, just want to sit and be quiet, to get their mind off things and others want to have a conversation. So, I think we provide what caregivers need to unwind."

 

Practical Assistance

From providing meals and snacks to offering a space for personal hygiene, the Family Rooms address the practical needs of caregivers. In cases where specific items like car seats or strollers are requested, the staff goes above and beyond to try and meet these needs or find alternative solutions, demonstrating Ronald McDonald House New York’s deep commitment to the well-being of each family served.

 

Future Vision: Strengthening the Safety Net

Odain and RMH-NY CMO

As RMH-NY continues to expand its reach, the vision for the future is clear: to create a robust network of Family Rooms that provide consistent, high-quality support across multiple locations.

Enhancing Service Delivery

Continual assessment and improvement of service delivery mechanisms will ensure that each Family Room can adapt to the changing needs of its population. This involves gathering feedback from families and hospital staff and incorporating new technologies and practices to enhance efficiency and impact.

Increasing Community Engagement

Building strong relationships with local communities and hospital staff is vital. By engaging more deeply with these stakeholders, RMH-NY can better understand and address the unique needs of each demographic, fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment.

NICU Graduations

Odain frequently reaches out to the staff at Kings County and asks them to provide feedback on what the families need or what the Family Room could do to benefit families in the hospital the most. On one such occasion, the idea of the NICU graduation was born. Today, at the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at both Kings County and Elmhurst, babies who are deemed well enough to go home receive a NICU graduation sponsored by the Ronald McDonald Family Room. The family is presented with a gift basket of essentials to assist with the transition to home, and the little ones receive a onesie with their own name on it.

Odain realized it was hard on the hospital staff to always take the long walk to the Family Room to tell him that there was a new graduate on the horizon. So, Odain created a QR code that staff simply scan from their station, which alerts the Family Room staff and gets the commencement ceremony to-do list up and running.

 

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Expanding Volunteer Programs

 

Odain at the 5 Boro Bike tour

 

Volunteers play an integral role in the success of the Family Rooms. Expanding volunteer programs to include more community members and corporate groups will increase the capacity to support families and bring fresh perspectives and energy to the initiatives.

The NICU graduation gift bags are a heavy lift, so Odain asked the Volunteers team at the House on East 73rd Street to help. Now, our corporate volunteer teams through our Helping Hands outreach, led by Rob, create most of the gift bags for NICU graduates and ship them back to the Family Rooms to be delivered to the appropriate family.

Odain’s keen understanding of the House and how it operates allowed him to facilitate those moves with ease. His understanding and partnerships, both with the staff at the hospital and our team at East 73rd Street, helped create the NICU graduation and all its pomp and circumstance as it is today.

 

The Professional Strengthens the Personal

"I’ve learned to appreciate my loved ones so much more. I’ve seen a lot in my time being at the House and, like, I know the importance of being present for a loved one, especially in difficult times. My time at Ronald McDonald House New York has given me a greater appreciation of everyone around me, everyone I love. I don’t take one minute for granted now."

--Odain spoke to what he has learned from his time at RMH-NY

A Legacy of Compassion and Care

Finishing a Meeting at Work.  

The strategic growth of RMH-NY through the expansion of the Family Room services is a testament to the organization's commitment to supporting families during their most challenging times. Under the leadership of dedicated individuals like Odain Brissett, these Family Rooms provide essential respite and comfort, creating a home away from home for caregivers and their children.

As RMH-NY continues to grow, it remains steadfast in its mission to offer hope, support, and a sense of community to all underserved NYC families in need. With each new Family Room, the legacy of compassion and care deepens, reaching more families throughout the five boroughs and making a profound difference in the lives of more and more New York City families each day.

 


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