Spotlight on Mimi Schultz
It must be in the genes for child life specialist Mimi Schultz to be a versatile "player" in a game such as child life. This is especially true in an outpatient, multispecialty clinic like ours in Abilene.
You see, in the 1940s, Mimi's dad played professional football back in the ol' leatherhead days where players regularly played on both offense and defense. Even though he'd learn the plays and studied the other team, the ability to be versatile and turn on a dime depending upon the way the play was going was a necessity.
Similarly, Mimi's patients on any given day run the full spectrum of specialties seen, from endocrinology to H/O and all those in-between. So, she does her homework for the day by reviewing the slate of patients, their anticipated emotional and psychosocial needs and the "why" of their visit. Yet, for all this preparation, she will never fully know if she'll need to pivot in a new direction.
And that's where this inherited trait from her dad likely kicks in. Reading the room and asking questions of the parent. "Sometimes, finding out from the parent that their child recently had an annual exam with shots means they may see that simple stethoscope and think they're going to get another shot," Mimi said. "That's where I get to intervene and work on appropriate distraction and play for the patient."
"Ultimately, my goal as a child life specialist is for the child to be so engaged with me that they will only be crying because it's time to leave the doctor's office," she explained, "and not because of the appointment itself."
For Mimi, the greatest measure of success and satisfaction is achieving that simple goal. This makes sense for a woman that is inherently a helper and whose willingness to lend a hand would lead her to Cook Children's more than 13 years ago.
With an internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital and four years as a child life specialist at Cincinnati Children's behind her, Mimi and her family ended up in Lubbock, where her husband completed his residency. Ultimately, the town of Abilene drew the young Schultz family in because, as Mimi said, "It has the kindest people I've ever met and that's where I wanted to raise my kids. That's why we are here."
As fate would have it, her husband started his new family medicine practice in Abilene in the same building as Cook Children's multispecialty clinic at the time. While working for her husband, Mimi delivered some lab work for a shared patient with Cook Children's Dr. Paul Bowman, who was in the office on this particular day.
"When I was dropping off the paperwork, I told the receptionist, 'If you ever have a kiddo that's having a hard time getting a stick or needs emotional support, I'm child life and I'm right down the hall. I'd be glad to help,'" Mimi recalled. "Dr. Bowman said, 'Wait a minute...we have a child life specialist in Abilene that's not working for us?' That set the stage for me to become a part of Cook Children's."
Even though Mimi may be sitting in a clinic more than two hours to the west of Fort Worth, she feels just as established and connected with her child life team here as she does with the staff she sees daily.
In the early days, Mimi would make quarterly visits to the main Cook Children's campus and round with her counterparts. This established a strong bond with the child life team and the clinics themselves. A bond that carries on to this day.
"I never feel apart because I know that we are each a phone call away, whether it's to give them background on one of our patients who is making the trip to campus or a follow-up from them after the appointment. That trust and open dialogue between us can then felt in how when interact with the parents."
Creating such trust with the child is something that Mimi cherishes. "Whether it's seeing a diabetic patient every couple months or a cardiology patient once a year, I've literally seen so many kids grow up over the years and have bonded with each in their own way," she said. "So, when I have a four-year-old walk into a clinic, make eye contact and excitedly yell, 'MIMI!!!', that's all I need to know that I'm that safe person for them. They trust that it's going to be ok."
Outside the clinic, she plays an active role with school visits and teaching child life courses for which she helped develop the curriculum. It's in that setting that Mimi often shares the career advice she heard years ago. "Find something you love to do and find a way to get paid to do it," she said with a laugh. "It's a wonderful thing to look forward coming to work because you love what I do."
And that sense of fulfillment that Mimi feels isn't hers alone. It's undoubtedly felt across the entire organization, because #WeAreCookChildrens.