If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I take great pride in my job. My job is more than just the place I work to get a paycheck. It’s something I’m truly passionate about and fulfills me, and after reading this post, I think you’ll see why!
I’ve received a lot of emails over the years asking about my job, so I’m excited to share more about what I do. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about PR professionals/practitioners out there, so I hope sharing what kinds of duties I have, projects I work on, a day in the life details, etc will give you a better idea. Then, I’ll answer some questions about work/life balance, being a working mom, etc.
In a nutshell, my job is to help our doctors, staff and patient families tell their stories. My job is about building relationships, working with the news media, strategic planning, crisis communications and more. The best thing about my job is that no day is the same. Every single day one phone call or page could completely change my day and I love that (ha, most of the time).
I’m going to share this post in a Q & A format so it’s a little easier to follow. Below are FAQs submitted via email, Instagram and Snapchat.
What is your job title?
I’m a Sr. Public Relations Specialist at a large children’s hospital (I was promoted to a senior specialist right before Lincoln was born). In my role, I support public relations/media relations for obstetrics and gynecology (and anything that falls under the OB/GYN umbrella including pregnancy, labor and delivery, gynecological surgery, lactation support services, etc.), fertility services, fetal surgery and neonatology. Each member of our PR team supports various service lines. In the past, I have supported other services such as cancer and neurology. I love that all of the service lines I support directly connect with one another because oftentimes, I get to work with a family and their care team before their baby is even born— and follow them through fetal surgery, delivery and the baby’s NICU stay. It’s a journey I’m truly privileged to be a part of. Just recently I worked with a family where I met the mother before she and her baby underwent fetal surgery for spina bifida. I continue to work with this family and now that their baby is born, I will be pitching their story to the media in their hometown.
What is your educational background?
I have an honors B.A. in both law and philosophy. I also have a postgraduate certificate in corporate communications management. I completed this one-year program immediately after graduating from University. All of my education was completed in Toronto.
What made you interested in healthcare?
In Slovakia, where I was born, a large majority of my mother’s side of the family works in healthcare. My mom is a RN and works on the pediatric unit of a hospital. My grandmother had her PhD and was a biologist, my mom’s sister is a physician, my great grandparents were pediatricians and there are also several other aunts, uncles and cousins that work in medicine. So while my job doesn’t involve patient care, healthcare is something I’ve always felt drawn to. My maternal grandfather was a journalist/author so I always say that I got my love of writing from him and my love for medicine and healthcare from the rest of my family.
What do you do? What is a typical day like for you?
As I mentioned before, every day is different. Right now, a good portion of my time is spent on the Zika virus. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen that Zika is all over the news and our hospital has a Zika task force (team of physicians) as well as a dedicated Zika clinic. On a nearly daily basis, I field requests from local, regional and national media outlets to interview our experts about Zika. My job is to connect our physicians with reporters and arrange and oversee interviews so that they can provide expert commentary for news stories (this includes television, radio, online and print). In the past month alone, I have placed over 10 Zika-related stories, including one on TODAY.
Basically, my job is to work with the news media both proactively in pitching stories that feature our doctors, experts and patient families and reactively by responding to requests for commentary on things like studies released in medical journals or public health issues. Because we are the largest pediatric hospital in the US, reporters often come to us for experts in very specific sub-specialties. My role is to serve as the liaison between the media and our hospital so that we can share the amazing work our medical teams and researchers do.
My day can include coordinating and overseeing phone interviews with reporters, overseeing television interviews at the hospital with our doctors and patient families, calling a patient family to learn more about their story and strategizing on where and how to pitch it, meeting with physician and administrative teams to discuss upcoming projects, PR initiatives, etc…
Some days, I have a lot of desk time and can focus on pitching and writing and other days I’m thankful I carry a cell phone charger because I’m at the hospital all day meeting with families, working with media outlets and overseeing interviews and meeting with different care teams. We also do media prep/training with our doctors and other staff and I’ve even had the privilege of being in the OR for some surgeries we’ve filmed for news stories.
As I mentioned, my days are unpredictable. One Friday morning, I got a call from one of our maternal-fetal medicine clinic administrators that a mother who was visiting for a routine ultrasound was actually in active labor and she and her partner were about to get married by our chaplain in the clinic. It was totally spur-of-the-moment and the family wanted to share their story, so I called a local producer that works with the Today Show and we had our own videographer as well as a news photog and reporter at the hospital within 30 minutes. We filmed their ceremony and then were in the OR filming the birth of her baby. It was such an incredible experience to be a part of. The story went everywhere, even People.com!
For a story like this, I’m the person who coordinates all of the logistics. I get the media there, I get our videographer there, I get the HIPAA consents and then I organize all of the photo and video content and send it to media with a short pitch. If the media outlet is interested, they either run the story using the materials I sent, or they call me to set up a phone or in-person interview with the family. My role is to coordinate all of those details so interviews and shoots run smoothly. Of course, my main priority is to ensure that the family is happy and comfortable. There’s a delicate balance there and you learn very quickly which opportunities are a good fit for the family and which ones you should turn down.(all suited up before going in with the film crew)
What do you love most about your job?
The families I work with. They continuously inspire me with their strength and bravery. It can be a very difficult thing to share such a personal journey, but these families want to share their stories to give hope to others or to help another child’s family find our hospital. A lot of our patients are from outside of the Texas area because we offer interventions such as fetal surgery that aren’t available at many centers.
I still remember a family I worked with whose son had cancer—I was there they day of his last chemo treatment because his family was being profiled by a local news station. We were all there celebrating his last chemo. I didn’t know when I’d see or talk to them next—and a year or so later at a fundraising event for the hospital I ran into his parents and his mom showed me a picture of him on her iPhone and I just broke down right there. It was the little boy with a full head of hair—and he was kicking a soccer ball. It was just one of the best photos I saw that year. As much as I try not to get too attached to the amazing families I work with—I always think about them and pray for them.
I also shared what is was like to work with the incredible family of the Mata twins (read more about their story here) and I still text with the mom regularly, stay in touch on Facebook and see them every time they return for follow-up visits to the hospital (in fact, I saw them a few weeks ago!) I’m still in awe when I see the girls crawling, walking and talking when they spent the entire first year of their life in our hospital. I am forever grateful to know this family.
I love coming to work because I work with the best team. Our PR team is incredibly supportive, collaborative and non-competitive. I consider my co-workers to be incredible team members, but also friends. I know I can count on them for anything.
The other thing I love is that medicine is ever-evolving. There are always new advances, new treatments, groundbreaking surgeries and research…the list is endless.
Something that I find really exciting about my job is the opportunity to become immersed in the service lines I work on. As PR folks, we obviously aren’t at the bedside and although we work regularly with families, experiencing the environment and culture in which our patients are cared for really gives us a deeper understanding of what goes on day-to-day at the hospital. If we just sat at our desks all day and didn’t interact with care teams, we would have zero ability to do our jobs…and no stories to tell either!
What challenges do you encounter at work?
The most critical challenges I face is are emotional ones. I’m often with families I’m working with on media-related stories when they receive good news and also bad news. I sometimes develop longer-term relationships with families and it’s impossible not to be affected by what they are going through. Working with a family whose child is undergoing cancer treatment or that has a very premature baby in the NICU is not easy. These families are sharing intimate moments of their experiences with you and it’s both humbling and at times, heartbreaking. On the other hand, our PR team is in total agreement that we get to see miracles happen all the time— how many people can say that about their jobs?
Another challenge is that I’m a chronic worrier, especially when it comes to my children’s health, and sometimes being in this role clouds my ability to have normal levels of anxiety about my own children’s health. Seeing what these families go through has made me realize that the future is truly never guaranteed and that your child can be healthy one day and very, very sick the next. That’s a difficult thing to see day in and day out and it affects me tremendously. It has made me be more of a helicopter parent than I want to be because we hear about all of these freak accidents that come in through our ER. I have questioned every single thing with my children because I so often have parents tell me “we noticed XYZ but we didn’t think much of it” and that XYZ ended up being something very serious. It has made me hyper-aware of all things health related which can be both good and bad.
This job, more than any other, has challenged me in some good ways and I see these challenges more as an opportunity to grow rather than something negative. Sometimes there are issues that arise where we have to work with our risk and legal teams and these situations challenge our entire team. We always learn something new when developing communications plans for various issues. I can’t really share a lot of specific examples here, but working as a team to develop messaging points around sensitive issues is both challenging and rewarding.
I thought PR was just about writing news releases!
Some of the misconceptions you hear about PR professionals is that they just churn out news releases or plan events. News releases are a very small part of what I do (less than 5%) and I don’t plan events, unless it’s a news conference and even those are few and far between.
While I do write news releases as part of my job, it’s really a very small portion of what I do (I can count on one hand how many I’ve written since January). It’s more important for me to be at the hospital, meeting with the people who are on the front lines of patient care— that’s where the stories are, that’s where innovation happens, that’s where the hope and inspiration is—not at our desks. We need to be in constant contact with these care providers and leaders in order to learn about and understand what’s happening at the hospital and to determine what is a good fit for a media story or what kind of news is significant enough to share locally and nationally.
Why do you have a pager?
Each member of our team is on-call one week per month. Being on-call means you are available 24/7 as the media relations contact for the hospital. We get pages about various issues. One example would be that news stations listen to police scanners. If there is an accident at 2 a.m. and a child is involved and brought to our hospital, a news producer can page me through our page operator and I will call the producer back to determine what their request is. In the case of an accident, they always call to get what we call a “condition update” about the patient so that they can report it on the news. If they can provide us with the full name and age of the patient, we are able to call our NAC and obtain a one-word condition update to release to the media (such as “fair condition” or “critical.”). Sometimes we get paged if a reporter is on a tight deadline and seeking expert commentary for a story.
What are some stories you’ve worked on so I can see the type of stories you pitch and place?
I’m so excited to share with you some of the stories I’ve worked on! Below are some links you can click to view some stories I pitched and/or coordinated (this is just a small sampling!) I also work on a lot of FAQ-style articles on pregnancy/postpartum related topics as well as medical studies, but my favorites are patient stories, human interest, miracle stories, etc.
With Zika, hospitals are scrambling to stay ahead (STAT News)
Conceiving After Cancer (TMC News)
Texas’ maternal death rates top most industrialized countries (USA Today)
A NICU doctor’s moving letter to any parent who’s ever lost a baby (Today.com)
Formerly conjoined twins thrive one year after epic surgery (Today.com)
Formerly Conjoined Texas Twins Celebrate One Year Since Separation (ABCNews.com)
Addicted Before Birth (TMC Pulse)
Texas Children’s Hospital experimental surgery treats spina bifida (ABC 13 KTRK)
College Station family gives lasting gift to life-saving doctor (KBTX College Station)
Optimism soars for spina bifida baby (The Californian)
Want to test a marijuana-based drug? Expect a visit from the ‘men in black’ (STAT News)
Preemies: Now and Then (The Huffington Post)
The ethics of donating breast milk (Mosaic Science)
Experimental drug showing remarkable results in babies with liver disease (FOX 26 KRIV)
Texas Woman Gets Married While in Labor at Hospital: ‘I Never Thought I’d Have My Wedding and Meet My Baby on the Same Day’ (People.com)
Baby born with rare diagnosis: He only has half of his heart (FoxNews.com)
O’Brien Gains Perspective Beyond The Football Field (ESPN)
Conjoined twins separated at Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston Chronicle)
Conjoined Twins Undergo Complicated Separation Surgery (ABC Nightline)
10 Dangerous infertility myths you should read and forget forever (SheKnows.com)
Do you work full-time? What kind of hours do you work? Always see your posts and wonder how you do it all!
I do work full-time (40 hours per week). I usually get to the office between 8:35-8:45 and leave by 4:40-4:50. I eat lunch at my desk and work through lunch most days. Any time I devote to my blog is on evenings and Sunday nights when I get the most work done. I pre-schedule blogs and social media posts so that I’m not having to worry about publishing all week.
What do you find your greatest challenge to be as a working mom? What is the greatest reward?
This is a great question- thank you! The greatest challenge for me is feeling that there is never enough time in the day and sometimes feeling a bit rushed/overwhelmed when we’re home from work. I do try to leave right before 5 each day to try to “beat traffic” a little, but I sometimes feel frustrated when traffic is bad and feel upset over those extra minutes taken away from family time.
On the other hand, the greatest reward is feeling a tremendous sense of fulfillment in the role that I have as both a mother and in my work. Working outside of the home makes me feel accomplished and secure. Knowing that if anything ever (God forbid) happened to Kevin or his job, that our family would be okay and provided for. I also love that I am modeling for my children the balance of working and family. I don’t always do a great job at it, but I think like anything in life, it ebbs and flows. I hope they are proud of me one day for the choices we’ve made and can see the value in those choices.
What are your tips to get into the industry as a new grad and then making it into health care?
We have interns in our department and it’s a great way to get some experience in healthcare specifically. For PR in general though, I worked on the agency side and while I would much rather work in-house, I do think there is tremendous value in working at a PR agency because you will get to work on a very wide variety of projects for clients in different industries and use a lot of different skill sets. Try your local PRSA website for job and internship listings.
As a working mom of two myself, I find it an accomplishment just to get everyone out of the door! What is your morning routine? Any tips/tricks?!
The struggle is real! This year in particular has been really difficult for me. It’s definitely not all sunshine and rainbows over here and I definitely could never do any of this alone. They key to our mornings running smoothly is the “divide and conquer” strategy. At night after the kids are asleep, I will usually work on my blog for a bit while Kevin packs the baby’s bottles for the next day (obviously I am very thankful that my husband is so supportive of my blog and takes care of those things every night so that I can devote some time to this little space I have online).
In the morning, I wake up at 6 a.m. (it used to be 5:30 a.m.) to pump for 30 minutes while Kev sleeps. Then, Kevin feeds Lincoln a bottle and I get up and get ready for work. By 7 a.m., my hair and makeup is done and I’m dressed. If Lincoln is still asleep, I will go downstairs while Kevin and Harper eat breakfast. When Lincoln is up, I’ll change him and get him dressed and then we spend some time together as a family before packing up the car and leaving for daycare. When I’m no longer pumping and the baby doesn’t need a bottle the second he wakes up, I expect this routine will shift a little bit. I don’t take long to get ready so I will probably just wake up an hour or so before we need to be out of the house.
How do you fit in time for yourself? And what’s your fave thing to do when you squeeze that in?
I’m sitting here writing this looking at my feet resting on the ottoman in front of me and realizing I haven’t gotten a pedicure in a month, haha! Most of my “me time” is spent working on the blog, but I love this hobby of mine, so no complaints here! It has been difficult with two children to find time for myself. Especially as a working mom, I like to devote my weekends to family. I’ll do things like take Harper along with me and we will get pedicures together so I can do something for myself while still spending time with her. I think I’ve kind of accepted that in this season of life, I may not get to have a lot of me time, but I have my family and that is the greatest gift.
I’m a full-time working mom of two also! How do you keep up with everything else (cleaning, organizing, errands, shopping, social life, etc.)
I definitely don’t keep up with it well! We have a cleaning lady that comes every 2-3 weeks and I try to start laundry on Friday night so we can get a few loads in before our weekend begins. I do 90% of my shopping online and rarely go to stores unless I am returning something. That saves a lot of time. I think I’m just so conditioned to work and then work on my blog that it’s my “normal” and I just find a way to incorporate it.
I definitely need to get better at the social life part. I do have a group of girlfriends that does a girls night every few months and I see a lot of my friends through play dates with our kids. I remind myself constantly that you can’t have every part of your life at 100%. If you’re thriving in one area, another area is probably suffering a little and I’ve taught myself to be okay with that. Sometimes, my house is so messy, but I also recognize that the piles of laundry needing to be put away can wait until my kids are asleep because in that moment, being with them is way more important. I’ve basically given myself permission to be okay with “failure” so that I can be present where I feel I need to be at any given time.
I wonder how you do it! I am such in awe of you and often times wonder how you don’t get exhausted (that was a compliment!). Do you take any certain supplement? Any tricks to help boost the energy level? Is it largely due to the fact that you love your job and find it fulfilling?
I don’t take any supplements other than a prenatal vitamin since I’m still nursing, but I do drink coffee. Mmmm coffee… Loving what I do and finding it fulfilling keeps me going and that goes for both my 9-5 and my blog. I feel excited to go to work most days because I work with such great people. I read somewhere once to “do what you love and it won’t feel like work.” Of course my job is not perfect everyday and it has its ups and downs just like any other, but overall, I love what I do, where I work and who I work with—that it makes it much easier to feel energized to tackle each day.
This is a post I’ve been looking forward to for a while! Fellow mom of two and in healthcare How do you deal with mommy guilt as a working mom if you have it? Do you take your lunches? How about sharing your evening routine with the two kids after work also.
The greatest thing that has put “mom guilt” into perspective for me is having friends on the other side of things. I always thought stay at home moms had this ideal life because they get to plan their days however they want, spend a ton of time with their kids and get all kinds of stuff done around the house. I was wrong. Stay at home moms have just as much mom guilt as working moms do and we all have challenges that are both different and the same. While I’m over here worrying “Do I spend enough time with my kids? Do they miss me? Will I regret working?” Many stay at home moms are filled with the same anxieties “Am I a good mom? I feel guilty for feeling bored/unfulfilled, what if something happens to my partner’s job? are my kids learning enough?” The list goes on and on no matter what side of things you’re on, but the bottom line is that all moms feel guilt, even the mom you’re envious of whose house always looks perfect.
I do have mom guilt, sometimes related to working and sometimes not. I think having mom guilt is a sign that you’re a good mom because you care so much. The truth is that whether you work inside or outside of the home (or both!) there are pros and cons and both come packed full of guilt. You can love your job like I do or love being a stay at home mom, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel guilt. I think of it this way— while I experience guilt that I don’t have as many hours in the day with my kids as I’d like, a stay at home mom may experience guilt because she feels she isn’t present like she would like to be because caring for children is exhausting and overwhelming and maybe she needs some time for herself. So we both feel bad about the same thing (being present for our kids) while in completely different situations.
For me, the bottom line is that I feel I’m a better mother because I work. For some mothers, staying at home is their calling, and that’s wonderful.
I do usually bring my lunch to work! It’s so much easier, cheaper and time-saving. I used to buy my lunch a ton but then when I went on the special diet to accommodate Lincoln’s food intolerances, I had to bring all of my food so I got into a good habit of doing so.
After work, one of us will pick up the kids (I usually drop off, Kevin usually picks up) and when we get home we change out of our work clothes so we can be in comfy sweats and play with the kids. We usually feed the kids and then go up to our playroom afterwards for play and family time. Then we have bath time (the kids have a bath together) and I feed/rock Lincoln to sleep. Harper and Kevin go downstairs to wind down for the night with a show (once in awhile) or they do stories in bed and I join them when L is asleep for cuddles, prayers and good nights.
Thank you for giving us the chance to ask you things on that! It’s pretty amazing how you find the time to do everything….job, great mum, wife, blog!! I am so impressed!! What someone needs to achieve all these things? Special organizational skills? Do you have time for yourself to work out since your body doesn’t look at all as a woman with two children! Congratulations on everything! Keep going to motivate us and inspiring us!
Thanks for your comment! Although I consider myself to be fairly type-A, I am also really disorganized in some ways. I work really well under pressure, so oftentimes I will leave errands and things I need to get done to the very last minute. It’s hard to fit it all in, but I give myself a lot of grace and remind myself that going to the post office or whatever errand can wait because there are other things that are more important.
In terms of your second comment, thank you for the compliment, but my post-baby body is all due to genetics. I sometimes feel bad when I’m asked how I stay thin, because truthfully, I’m a little bit underweight right now and I would never want anyone to think that this is what I strive for because it’s totally out of my control. I lose weight like crazy when I’m pumping, no matter how much I eat. I have to eat a lot because if I don’t, I won’t have a good milk supply. I’m always on the floor playing with my kids and lifting them so for now, that’s my workout. I still spend 1.5 hours each day connected to my breast pump, so when I get that time back, I may consider slowly getting back into a workout routine, but it will have to be something simple I can do at home.
I work in public affairs for a government agency and wonder how you deal with multiple deadlines or projects. I find I have several things I am working on and then my day/week/etc can quickly be hijacked due to a crisis or something more time sensitive that comes up. How do you manage your calendar? Do you have a favorite planner or app? A way you map it all out? I love my job because it is always something new and I get to be creative but it is also exhausting. I go full speed during the day and then want to be an awesome mama after work. Maybe my secondary question would be how do you find balance or transition between your two roles? thanks!
Can I be honest? I am the most forgetful person ever. Like I have to send myself texts, make lists and have everything on my calendar or I will forget. I use Outlook for all of my day-to-day/calendar needs. I’m sure there are some great apps out there, but to me, that just sounds like more work when Outlook already does the job. I use it for both my work and personal appointments/events. I don’t use a planner I have to write in because I think they’re pretty bulky and I don’t want one extra thing to carry around. I do have this mini binder that I take to meetings and keep at my desk for note taking.
In terms of my day getting completely side tracked by a crisis or issue (which is something that happens regularly when you work with the news media), I always remind myself that it’s part of the job and re-prioritize my to-do list. Obviously things like scheduled media interviews can’t wait, but maybe working on my media coverage tracking or writing some pitch emails can be set aside for the next day.
I totally feel you on working all day and then trying to have the energy to be “on” with my kids when I get home. There are definitely days I fail at that. One thing that helps with the transition from work to home (and this is silly, but it really does work) is that as soon as we get home, my husband and I both change into sweatpants and comfy clothing so we can get on the floor with the kids and just feel relaxed. We did this before kids too, but somehow just getting out of my work clothes puts me into a different mindset.
This post got way longer than I had intended so I’ll stop now—but I really wanted to give a glimpse into my everyday work life and what kinds of things I work on. I’m so lucky to have my job—I get to do something I love and care about and that’s not easy to come by and I know that. If you’re in public relations and ever have the opportunity to work in healthcare, I highly recommend it. It’s not like any other PR job I’ve ever had. If you’re a communications student, consider doing your PR internship at a hospital. You may find you love it just as much as I do!
Thanks for reading and for all of your support and interest in my job over the years!