Leah Taylor, a Sleep Navigator with an emphasis on compassionate, empathetic pediatric patient care shares insights on how to enlist a growth mindset in your sleep medicine practice
In this month’s sleep story, we highlight a Sleep Navigator with more than a decade of healthcare experience supporting patients, families and physicians who have a need for exceptional care in the field of pediatric sleep medicine, Leah Taylor. A firm believer in continuing education and professional development, Taylor advocates for constant growth, choosing a new phrase or word each year to build that growth mindset around. Let’s dive into her sleep story now.
Taylor’s Work in Sleep Medicine
Taylor has worked for the past 16 years at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH), the last six of which she’s supported the Children’s sleep lab. Like many other Sleep Navigators and Sleep Educators, Taylor’s immediate responsibility is to provide direction for physicians, pediatric patients, parents and families to ensure they all receive the proper help to successfully manage all medical needs related to sleep. More specifically, she manages patients from when a doctor orders a sleep study all the way through to treatment, including identifying the right type of test and guiding parents and patients through the process.
Taylor works with a lot of parents who don’t know what’s happening with their child. Emotions are high, and a big part of Taylor’s job is managing the expectations of parents and patients, and addressing their concerns and worries. She highlighted two main emotional responses parents have:
“More often than not, parents are confused. Sometimes they’re assigned a sleep test, and they just don’t know what that entails. I work both with children directly and with parents. I help parents figure out if their child needs a sleep test, which physician they might need to connect with, really any types of questions they have, I’m the initial go to person,” said Taylor. “And beyond confusion, many parents are feeling frustrated. Many parents still don’t have answers to their questions, they don’t know what’s going on with their child, so alleviating that concern can help them out in that area.”
Taylor works primarily with parents and their children, but her relationship with physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals within the SLCH system is crucial, as well. “We work closely with the sleep specialists,” said Taylor of her relationship with the SLCH physician network. “It makes the care more personal and more immediate for our patients to have the connection we have with the sleep specialists.”
Compassion, Empathy Power Taylor’s Care
Leah Taylor is able to support pediatric patients as a Sleep Navigator in a way that few other people in the sleep care continuum are able to thanks to her empathy and compassion. Those strengths are what make her such an amazing Sleep Navigator.
“It’s important to be able to be quiet and listen. Often in conversations with parents, their frustration and confusion will be on display. So, having the ability to empathize with parents and demonstrate compassion helps in supporting those families,” said Taylor. “And once they see that you have that compassion, then parents can calm down, and they’re more likely to listen.”
Taylor advises young Sleep Navigators to continue to develop their people skills, especially to be empathetic, as it really makes a difference for the families struggling with pediatric sleep disorders. Beyond the people skills, Taylor also encourages Sleep Navigators and techs to ask questions and keep learning.
A Growth Mindset Fuels Taylor’s Professional Development
One person in her field that is inspirational for Taylor is her manager, a man who’s been in sleep for 20 years and has a strong presence in sleep. According to Taylor, he really understands sleep medicine, but more than that, he is really good at managing staff members’ growth trajectories and patients’ concerns and trepidation. “He’s been the real inspiration for me. He’s the best person I’ve ever worked for, ever,” Taylor said.
One of the reasons he’s so impactful on her life is the encouragement he gives her around improving in her field. In healthcare, you can’t stop learning. You can’t become complacent or bored with your job. And if you find yourself in that position, Taylor emphasizes continued education and learning as much as possible.
“Knowledge is power, and taking time to learn something new each week or day really impacts your job and your life. So if you’re not happy with your job, keep growing and trying new things. That’s number one,” she said.
For Taylor, growth should be both professional and personal. Once a year, she picks a word to concentrate on, and in 2021, it was authenticity. “I really try to explore what the word means to me throughout the year. For me in 2021, that meant being really honest with myself, doing things I might not usually do, and in general, saying yes to things I normally wouldn’t say yes to,” said Taylor.
Taylor has recently begun doing more traveling, including some solo travel activities to push herself out of her comfort zone. A travel highlight of Taylor’s in the last few months is her hiking trip out to Seattle to Lake Chelan. “Some people might find these things simple to do, but for me, it hasn’t been, but I am absolutely going to do it again,” she said with a laugh.
Newfoundland, Iceland, and other parts of Europe are on her bucket list, especially somewhere she can see the northern lights blooming. Great goals for a great sleep professional! We’re hoping you find all the traveling excitement you can, Leah!