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Nursing News HighlightsReal Nurses Real Stories

Superhero Nurse Brightens Children’s Hospital Stay

Teddybear with bandaids
It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It’s Nurse Tobin from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Ill. Since his first day on the job, Tobin Mathew, RN, BSN, has donned superhero apparel to help put a smile on his young patients’ faces.

We recently spoke with Tobin, who was named one of the Red Cross 2017 Nurse Heroes, to learn more about the nurse behind the costume, and discuss his experiences working with pediatric patients.

What made you want to become a pediatric nurse?
Tobin Mathew

I love working with kids; these patients really make you want to be the best version of yourself. When I was going through different rotations in nursing school, pediatrics really clicked. I had so many families tell me that they wanted me to be their child’s nurse, and I had never felt so wanted and accepted. The reason I’ve stayed in this career for 13 years is because I love taking care of young patients, and I’ve been lucky that families really like having me  around and embrace me being myself.

What inspired you to dress up as a superhero at the hospital?

As a kid, I grew up reading comics and was inspired by superheroes. When I went into pediatrics, I had a feeling that kids would connect with that as well. The reason I started wearing the superhero shirts and costumes to the hospital was two-fold. On one hand, the persona gave me the confidence to be strong and brave when caring for these children, and on the other hand, the costume helped me connect with the patients and give them a good laugh. I wanted to project strength to help put families at ease, and provide them with something that wasn’t the traditional lab coats and scrubs. There were a lot of reasons for doing it, but I’ve kept doing it because it’s such a big hit with the families and it puts a lot of smiles on faces.

What does being a “Super Nurse” mean to you?

It’s not all about the cape or the superhero. In addition to treating the patient, we’re trying to connect with the actual person. The superhero costume is a great ice-breaker that helps me connect with the child and learn about what they’re interested in, what they get excited about and what matters most to them.

Can you tell us about a time when your superhero identity helped you connect with a child in need of support?
There are many instances that have stood out to me. I once worked with a seven-year-old patient who was very shy, but the second I walked into her hospital room and she saw my superhero shirt, she seemed to really connect with me. I ended up taking care of her for a month, and she would pick out what superhero shirt I would wear the next day, or sometimes I’d surprise her with a new costume. Her parents would tell me that whenever I was working, their daughter would have a better day. It means the world to me to know that I really resonated with her.

Another time on Halloween, there was one patient who was refusing to take her medicine. She happened to be deaf, but when I came into the room her eyes lit up when she saw my Superman costume. I looked at her and made a muscle gesture with my arms, to tell her that she had to show me how strong she was and take her medicine - and she took it! I always change costumes every few hours on Halloween, and she wanted to take pictures with me in all of them.

She came back to the hospital six months later and showed me all the pictures of us together on her iPad, because she still remembers that day and what it meant to her. These types of moments happen all the time, and they help you realize that you’re really making a difference for these kids.

What advice would you give to a student nurse interested in pursuing a career in pediatric nursing?

Embrace your inner child! I talk to the kids about my love of superheroes and video games, and they love that you’re not just acting as a caregiver, you’re trying to interact with them and get to know them. I think pediatric nursing is one of the best jobs in the world, and I don’t see myself doing anything else. If you want to go into pediatrics, be prepared to give it your all and do your best, because that’s what these kids deserve.

Watch our "Name Game" nursing commercial below highlighting pediatric nurses and their ability to help turn some of the toughest times into special moments for their patients.

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