New parent amenities at Sickkids

There is now a laundry for parents opposite Marnie's lounge.

The Parent Resource Centre has turned on wireless for parents with their own wireless enabled laptops. You can pickup the signal on the seats outside the Centre after the Centre closes. The Centre is located opposite Shoppers Drug Mart.Kim Meighen, the Centre's coordinator, is an excellent resource for parents seeking information on hospital services.

It is also rumoured that the number on the back of a Starbucks card gives you 2 free hours access to the hotspot advertised at Starbucks. If you give it a whirl and it works let us know.

New Sickkids website launches Wednesday!

I noticed a few days ago on the homepage of that a new website will launch on Wednesday. This is exciting. I look forward to seeing what has been worked on for many years. I expect the migration of such a large amount of data and the addition of new features was a huge challenge. As part of a website initiative for TRAC-PG we were apprised by a member of Information Services that a vendor and product was about to be chosen. That was in early 2007. I am not aware of any family outreach in the planning of this new site however. I can only hope there was as different audiences really do have different priorities. I also hope there has been review of how users approach the new site and that this has lead to additional considerations being woven into the final product based on the user group feedback.

The existing site has many pages that have not been updated since 2004 and 2005. It seems that areas of the site have been updated in spurts. This is not surprising when we consider how busy all the teams are and speaks to the question of how teams allocate staff time for involvement in the website. I have seen some departments working with the page update tools to add news about clinics and conferences however these items sometimes 'stick around'. Hopefully more streamlined tools will inspire making website updates a priority for all the teams.

The search functionality also seemed to have problems with the content. There is a comprehensive staff listing that I frequently use to check a staff member's unit however it has never been clear how often these are updated. Keyword searches either bring up too little information or results that do not present a meaningful hierarchy of information. So, for example, a search based on one staff member's name who has worked at Sickkids for approximately 20 years and is involved in care, research and education brought up 1 result under "find exact phrase" (a May 2007 conference), 2 results under "find all words" (adding a page about research projects in the specific unit) and 4 results under "find partial results" (adding the person's name on the unit contact page and one other page that did not mention this person at all). Hard to see the rhyme or reason for the search results. These problems are endemic to search engines as well, as anyone who has tried comparing various search engines like Google, MSN, Yahoo etc has experienced first hand. Search modules are complex algorithms and the search engine keeping up with new content is also a challenge. I would not be surprised to see the entire Search function use an advanced third party service like Google. Hopefully the new site supports users now comfortable with Boolean search logic and operators while generally There is also currently no labels / tags at hand to give families browsing search links relevant to the specific departments.

Recently a questionnaire was posted for families on the homepage that I wrote about earlier. This is very positive. However there is no ability for a reader to feedback any kind of comment on specific content, nor quite surprisingly is there a single general feedback form. I think it would be excellent to read parent stories on the website that can help other parent's prepare for a lifetime commitment to care and best support of their children during improving health and setbacks.

To the best of my knowledge there is no private parent area or web based tools so that staff can offer detailed unit specific information to families. Nor are there web based tools for family communication as a group or one on one between family and team, such as a parent charting area allowing a virtual scratchpad, calendar, to do list, messaging etc.

I don't expect the new site will address all these issues however I am excited to see what will appear in two days.

Changes at Sickkids Foundation

All those interested in Sickkids must have wondered over the last few months how the Foundation will be effected by the economic downturn. At a donors event last year, Sickkids Foundation director Michael O'Mahoney spoke to the difficulty of fundraising in the coming year and that we would need empathy and compassion for people's circumstances while striving to help the Foundation. A Toronto Star article from last week reports that Michael and a number of other top executives are leaving the Foundation and also provides some comparative background on other challenges like rising salaries, payroll and lowering return on the dollar. You can read the full article here.

Bear With Me by Diane Flacks, Nightwood Theatre Jan 7-24

Bear With Me marks the first return to stage of Diane Flacks, writer, actor, comedian and mom, since the birth of Jonathan Purdy-Flacks in 2006.

"Bear With Me is amazing. Diane's wit is incredible. She is very, very funny and a brilliant actor. I have recommended this play to all my classes."
Marcia Blumberg (Sasha, Mia and Eve's granny and Drama Professor, York U)

"She has you in the palm of her hand."
Henriette Donner (Humanities professor, York U)

For info go to Nightwood Theatre. The theatre is not huge and the reviews have been fabulous so don't wait to get your tickets!

Jonathan Purdy-Flacks is Sickkids Patient of the month

Jonathan continues to grow and develop and amaze everyone around him.

He is the January Patient of The Month at The Sickkids Foundation!

You can also learn more about Jonathan's story at his family website here.

Yeah Jonny!