The Arkansas Children’s Hospital Jonesboro Clinic has added a full-time pediatric pulmonary specialist to support children in northeast Arkansas suffering from asthma. Katie Stickler, A.P.R.N., C.P.N.P.-P.C., a pulmonary specialty nurse, joined the clinic’s full-time staff in April. Stickler, a native of nearby Paragould, will focus on patients with asthma and support others with pulmonary needs. Modern telemedicine equipment allows Stickler to coordinate with colleagues at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), bringing nationally-ranked pulmonology care closer to home for children in the region.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma is one of the most common chronic illnesses of children in the U.S., impacting nearly 6 million children. And the American Lung Association estimates that school-aged children miss almost 8 million school days yearly due to asthma. Adding access to full-time asthma and pulmonary care for children in northeast Arkansas is a step toward improving the region’s physical, mental and economic health.
For a young patient with asthma, the Arkansas Children’s care team includes a respiratory therapist, a pulmonary specialty nurse and a pulmonologist – all with specific training and experience in pediatrics. Telemedicine technology allows those teammates to collaborate even while in different cities. In the ACH Jonesboro Clinic, Stickler meets with patients and their caregivers in person. She takes the time to evaluate factors impacting each child’s asthma – like secondhand smoke or pet dander – and can then prescribe medications and action plans to help manage it.
“My transition into my full-time role at the ACH Jonesboro Clinic has been a positive and seamless experience,” Stickler said. “The staff is excellent and has met every capacity of support I could have imagined. And the patients and families have been so thankful to have this resource so close to home.”
Respiratory therapists and pulmonologists at ACH in Little Rock add strength to the foundation of care Stickler provides as an in-person specialty nurse at the ACH Jonesboro Clinic. Using telehealth technology, respiratory therapists coach young patients through fun pulmonary function tests that measure lung health. While the patient is exhaling into a tube in Jonesboro, data is being transferred instantaneously to monitors at ACH in Little Rock. Respiratory therapists compile the results into a report and share it with a pulmonologist, who analyzes the data. Based on test results and the exam, Stickler recommends certain action plans that become familiar to every asthma patient at Arkansas Children’s. The respiratory therapist then meets with the family and reviews the color-coded plan. It explains how often to use inhalers depending on whether the patient is doing well, showing some symptoms like coughing or wheezing, or having a full asthma attack. Helping families and patients take care of their asthma well at home can mean healthier children all across Arkansas.
The telemedicine program in Jonesboro was first introduced in 2016 for asthma patients seen remotely by ACH allergists and asthma physicians. Once COVID-19 triggered lockdowns, telemedicine became essential for providing health care. Now, more physicians, nurses and families are more comfortable using telemedicine. The technology is especially useful for asthma, where treatment requires regular health care visits and specialized testing. Some insurance plans require asthma patients to visit health care providers twice a year or more often. Having Stickler available full-time in Jonesboro saves families in the region from traveling hours back and forth to Little Rock every few months.
Arkansas Children’s is committed to bringing high-quality health care close to home for every child in the state. In northeast Arkansas, the ACH Jonesboro Clinic provides care for pediatric patients across 15 specialties, with full-time services for audiology, cardiology and pulmonary needs. The clinic also has full-time technicians for administering ultrasounds, electroencephalograms (EEGs), echocardiograms, electrocardiograms (EKGs) and Holter monitors. Expanding the full-time services offered at the ACH Jonesboro Clinic is another example of how Arkansas Children’s is following through on its mission to making children better today and healthier tomorrow.