Following Mom’s Lead in Caring for Others

When 4-year-old Mark Littler attended his mom’s graduation from nursing school with his triplet brothers, Luke and John, little did his family suspect that 25 years later he would be following in his mom’s footsteps.  Today, mother and son are both on staff at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, caring for patients.

For mom, Pam Littler, RN IV, Memorial Hermann Katy has been her career home for 25 years.  “I needed a job with flexibility because I had three babies. I went back to school to get my nursing degree at Houston Baptist University,  and then I applied to Memorial Hermann Katy after graduation.”

At the time, the hospital usually did not hire graduates right out of nursing school.  Pam recalls the woman who interviewed her saying, “‘If you can have triplets and make those good of grades, you’re hired.’”

She’s been at Memorial Hermann Katy ever since.

Mark also attended Houston Baptist University (HBU), receiving his Bachelor’s in Nursing.  The HBU dean had been one of his mom’s instructors when she was there in nursing school and remembered seeing Mark and his brothers on campus as young children. “They followed me like ducks in a row,” recalls Pam.

Mark, 4, attends his mother’s graduation from HBU with his brothers, Luke and John.

Listening to his mom talk about nursing at the dinner table, Mark began considering a career in health care.  “I knew I wanted something in the medical field. I was trying to decide between nursing and medicine,” says Mark Littler, RN, BSN, CMSRN. “I chose nursing because you get to spend time with patients. Nursing is more of the holistic side of health care.”

Both mother and son were attracted to nursing because it involved caring for people in their time of need. “Everybody needs a nurse sometime,” says Pam.

“It’s very intimate. You meet these people for the first time. They have to trust you. Their lives are in your hands. It’s a very rewarding and special relationship,” says Mark.

They’ve already seen many changes in health care and nursing. “Health care is always changing with technology and so many evidence-based practices emerging all the time,” says Pam.

Mark agrees with his mom about the fast pace of change in health care. “I came in as the industry was transitioning from paper charts to electronic medical records (EMRs) so I had to adapt quickly,” adds Mark. “It’s a constant emphasis on quality, safety and incorporating technology  to help achieve best practices.”

Memorial Hermann Katy has a stellar reputation for providing safe, high-quality care and was a 2017 recipient of the Texas Award for Performance Excellence (TAPE) from the Quality Texas Foundation, a national leader in its field that was chartered to recognize the best organizations in Texas.  The group spends hundreds of hours in onsite visits to evaluate and score applicants in several criteria as part of its extensive evaluation process.

Pam and Mark agree that delivering quality health care is all about teamwork and communication, which has become more advanced and sophisticated in recent years with the implementation of new technologies.

Using a secure text messaging service, Memorial Hermann nurses can contact physicians quickly about their patients in the hospital.  “It offers a quick, secure way to get in touch with physicians by sending a secure text directly to their phones. They can read it and respond back,” says Mark.

They both credit the tool for helping to facilitate communication and expedite care. “A physician can call back and give orders by phone or go into the hospitals electronic care record and enter new orders for patient care,” adds Mark.

Another change they’ve seen in nursing is the addition of hospitalists to the care team.

Hospitalists are physicians whose primary professional focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. They can be MDs or DOs who are board certified in family medicine or internal medicine. Memorial Hermann is expanding its hospitalist program to help improve patient outcomes while reducing the time patients spend in the hospital.

“Hospitalists work so hard. They must be multifunctional. They are focused on continuity and coordination of care,” explains Pam. “That includes making sure patients have enough help at home after discharge.”

Memorial Hermann Katy has recognized mother and son for excelling at what they do. Mark recently won Employee of the Month for April 2018 and is a past Good Samaritan nominee and Nursing Excellence Award nominee.  Pam has won Employee of the Month five times throughout her career in addition to other recognitions such as the Good Samaritan Award.

Pam works days and Mark works nights.  “I am in preadmission testing.  I really like it. It lets me work one-on-one with the patients.  If they’re scared, I can reassure them before their procedures, and we can catch and prevent any possible safety concerns,” adds Pam.

Mark works nights on the hospital’s 5th floor in the Observation unit.  “In Observation, there’s lots of turnover of patients, admissions coming in, discharges going out, and we’re managing the care in between.  We stay very busy,” says Mark.

Mark and his brothers, John and Luke, joined their mom to celebrate their 29th birthdays.

Memorial Hermann Katy’s top nurse values them both.  “Pam is a highly respected and valued member of our team.  She is a great resource for her peers, and her warm and caring personality puts anxious patients at ease.  She has instilled those same qualities in Mark.  He is frequently mentioned by patients for being kind and thorough, and is recognized by his peers as having astute critical thinking skills.  Pam is outgoing and Mark has a quiet touch.  We are grateful to have two such dedicated professionals on our team,” says Linda Stephens, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Memorial Hermann Katy.

Mother and son agree that you have to find the humor in nursing and stay grounded because nursing can become very stressful. “Mom and I talk about our days, we de-stress, it’s nice to encourage each other. She’s able to offer me guidance. She’s got wisdom and experience from her 25-year career,” says Mark.

“In nursing, the first rule is ‘Do no harm,’ that’s the main thing.  Keep them safe, and get them better,” comments Pam.

It’s easy for newcomers to nursing to get overwhelmed. “Mom and I have been preceptors (clinical coaches).  We help orientees.  I’ve enjoyed teaching others.  That’s why I’m getting my Master’s in Education,” adds Mark.

Because Pam and her son both live and work in Katy, it’s not uncommon for them to bump into former patients when they’re out and about in the community.  “We see these people outside, and they say ‘Hey, remember me?  You took care of me.’ “

Mark and Pam often have been requested by name by patients they have cared for previously, as well as family members of staff or affiliated physicians, Katy dignitaries and former neighbors. “You get to know them on a more personal level.  It’s a privilege to care for them,” says Mark.

Mark will celebrate four years at Memorial Hermann Katy in June. “Nursing is a very difficult and challenging career, but it’s very rewarding,” says Mark. “ It should be Nurses Day every day.  I don’t know if a week is long enough.”

Pam Littler and Mark Littler are among the many nurses across the Memorial Hermann Health System who are dedicated to providing high-quality health care while maintaining a caring and considerate attitude. In honor of Nurses Week, we are pausing to recognize them for their service. Their hard work and compassion are appreciated 365 days of the year!

To learn more about nursing careers at Memorial Hermann, click here.

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Ali Vise