'The Most Important Job In the World.' An Interview with Nancy Cychol
A Q&A with our Chief of Hospital Services
When Nancy Cychol came to Cook Children’s as a nurse in 1984, she intended to stay for three years. No longer. More than three decades later, she's still here serving as the chief of hospital services, and her passion for creating a fun environment for children to heal can be seen across the entire Cook Children’s Health Care System.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
The hats. But seriously, it's what I've always wanted to do, even as a little girl. From the time I was 6 years old, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. You can go back and look at all my drawings and you'll see Nurse Nancy in those pictures. There's no doubt that's where I was headed.
Family history played a huge role as well. My aunt was a nurse and my father had multiple sclerosis. I watched people taking care of my father and I watched my aunt taking care of other people. Looking back, I'm not sure I had a choice.
When it came time to make a choice about my career as a nurse, I knew I wanted to take care of children. I loved pediatrics from the beginning. I've always been a kid myself and I couldn't think of anything better than taking care of children.
When I graduated from nursing school, you couldn't go straight into the intensive care unit (ICU). You had to go into floor nursing and then the ICU. But I talked my instructors into writing me a letter that said I could go straight to the ICU. Riley Children's in Indianapolis allowed me work in their ICU and I loved it! I think the statue of limitations has run out so I don't think I'll get in trouble with that story!
What brought you to Cook Children's?
My husband tries to take all the credit and he probably should. But don't let him read what I'm about to say. The real story – the boring story – is that it was his job that brought us here. The plan was for us to be here for three years. But, you know what they say? Man plans, and God laughs. I truly feel like it all worked out because this is where we belong.
At that time, Cook Children's Hospital was talking about merging with Fort Worth Children's and the thought of being a part of that was so exciting to me. I wanted in! So, I asked my instructors to write a letter. Kidding. There were no more letters. But, I was hired as the Director of the Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (PICU and NICU), and Cook Children's became home.
What inspires you to come back every day?
I get up every morning and come to work with the sole purpose of helping children. Somewhere, that same little 6-year-old girl drawing pictures of being a nurse is smiling. I've kept her dream inside of me and I wanted the same thing that I wanted as a child – to help kids.
I walk around the halls of our medical center almost every day and I'm not sure how you can't be inspired. I'm inspired by our patients and their families. Even after all this time, I continue to be inspired by our amazing staff and how they support our patients, their families and their co-workers. We remove barriers, simple and complex, so that our employees can think about nothing but making their patients better. They have my complete support and respect. I'm so proud of everyone at Cook Children's.
Do you have a special way that you give back to our patient families?
I have a personal story; something most people don't know. It's not something I talk a lot about, but I think it's important to share with others.
My husband and I lost our first-born son when he was just 10 weeks old. We were on our way back from his christening and were involved in a car crash. It was devastating for us.
For us, organ donation was a huge part of the healing process.
Now, when we have families here at Cook Children's in that same situation, staff will call me and ask me to visit with the families. And so I do. I tell them that it's a horrible boat they're in, but that organ donation is the most positive thing they can do. It's one positive thing that can come out of a truly horrific situation.
Years from now, I hope they will look back and say, ‘Thank goodness we made that decision as a family.'
What's your work philosophy?
Have fun! If you are not having fun, you should not be doing whatever job you are doing. I can't think of a greater purpose than taking care of the children at our medical center. But you can't take yourself too seriously. You have to laugh. When our staff has fun, our kids have fun too, and that's what's most important.
How have you changed over the years?
Oh, I've learned to be myself. My first year as president of the medical center, I tried to be so corporate and to be the person I thought everyone expected as a president.
I wore nothing but black suits. Very business-like. That's hard to believe, I know. I was so worried about everything else that I was fine with putting on the dark suit and doing my job. But black suits really aren't all that fun, so as I got more comfortable, I started to add some color and some good old-fashioned accessories to my wardrobe.
Look, we have the most important job in the world – taking care of children. If being around these kids every day doesn't give you some sense of joy and fun, I'm not sure what will.
What is your birthday wish for Cook Children's?
That we continue to give the same great, compassionate care to our patients and their families for the next 100 years. I hope that every child who enters our doors has the opportunity to act like a child while they are here. I hope they have some fun and smile, even though they may not be here for fun. Cook Children's isn't a scary place, but a place of love and compassion for all kids.
"Nancy and I joined Cook Children's within a few years of each other. We have almost a sibling type relationship, which I guess makes me the big brother even though she has been here longer.
I would like to thank Nancy for being a great friend, colleague and mentor, especially in administrative leadership. And for encouraging us to have fun along the way. There aren't many people that could get me to dress up like Duck Dynasty or as an emoji for Halloween Hoopla every year. But I'll do it for Nancy.
If I could thank her for anything on behalf of our patients, I would thank her for the patient experience. We have always rendered great care, and that's important to her. But she has kept Cook Children's focused on another important layer to patient care: fun."
James C. Cunningham, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
Celebrating Cook Children's Centennial
Cook Children's is turning 100 and will be celebrating all year! Don't miss out on the fun throughout 2018. Enjoy unique stories, parades, special guests, and community events across Fort Worth. We hope that you can share in some our celebrations because you're the 1 in our 100!