Julie Jenkins shares how Stanford Children’s Health told patient stories through the opening of their new hospital

One thing we really need to be mindful of is always, always being respectful of the patient’s privacy.

As Social Media Manager at Stanford Children's Health, Julie Jenkins works to share the stories of the children, patients, and their families who receive treatment at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital — where she and the communications team work around the clock to create and capture special moments.

“Families share their most hopeful, joyful, and sometimes complicated moments with us, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to to tell their stories to our community,” says Julie.

One of their biggest stories to date was the expansion and opening of their new children's hospital.

The expansion added 521,000 square feet to Lucile Packard Children's existing pediatric and obstetric hospital and introduced more than 3.5 acres of green space and gardens. For the planning and design committees at the hospital, it was important to create patient rooms that were private, bright, and spacious, because the patient's room is the center of their hospital experience. And Julie wanted to make sure they spotlighted that on social media.

“We partner with our foundation in capturing and sharing stories about patients who are receiving care at our hospital,” says Julie. “We held a series of events leading up to the hospital opening, including community tours of our facilities.”

One of the culminating moments of their opening activities was the ribbon cutting ceremony at their new main building.

The ceremony consisted of several speakers, including hospital executives and board members, a musical performance, and a confetti cannon. “We did a Facebook Live on that day capturing that special moment in our hospital's history,” says Julie. “We reached an audience of nearly 60,000 with that video.”

The patient move day commenced two weeks following the ribbon cuttign and dedication of the new main hospital building. 91 patients from acute care, CVICU, and PICU units moved into the new facility in a very carefully planned undertaking that involved 16 move teams and 500 hospital employees.

“It was an opportunity for us to share the stories of families who were making the transition into the new hospital, while showcasing their journey and what the new hospital meant to them,” Julie explains. “So we had a team, a videographer, a photographer, and our PR department there and had pre-vetted and received consent from some of our patients.”

But one challenge they faced was making sure the patients and families they were featuring weren't going to be discharged before move day.

The care team are the best people to coordinate with when it comes to finding and elevating these stories.

“So we planned carefully and reached out to three families,” says Julie. “We pre-consented with them a few days before patient move day, using our HIPAA authorization form.” Julie emphasizes the importance of this first step to make sure everything is in place with the families and that they feel comfortable sharing their stories.

“One thing that made things a little bit easier for us on that day was placing a bright red Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford blanket on every child's bed who was interested in participating in our social media or media activities,” says Julie. “That was a nice mental trigger for everyone participating so they knew who could be photographed. This also allowed us to respect patients' privacy and capture the day's milestones without disturbing patients and the team of caregivers during the move.”

This strategy also allowed them to share some of those photos and moments on their social media channels the day of.

Julie worked with a team of experienced leaders who had previously worked on hospital moves to identify strategies that would make the transition smooth.

“We have a close community of videographers, photographers, and writers who we contract and work with frequently,” says Julie. “Many of the people we work with have an investment in not only in the healthcare space, but also our organization. They've been able to fine tune and hone the skills they have to deliver and help us tell the stories from our patients' and organization's perspectives.”

Julie shares they are continuing to focus on different social media series that integrate some of their messaging about the new hospital spaces. “I have been working with Reverend Diana Brady to spotlight the spiritual care and chaplain services at the hospital and the new sanctuary,” says Julie. “We continue to cover those stories related to the hospital expansion all the time.”


To develop those stories, Julie and her team start by identifying where their strategic priorities are.

They recently featured a patient named Dane, who they called the four-pound fighter. “A few years ago, an ambulance rushed him to our hospital,” says Julie. “He was dying quickly from bleeding internally, and he was just six weeks old and only four and a half pounds. At the time, he was the smallest baby to receive a transplant at our hospital.”

Dane received a liver transplant and a pioneering kidney transplant at Packard Children's. And to tell his story, Julie worked with the brand manager overseeing the pediatric transplant program to share Dane's story on social media.

“Often these stories are surfaced by members of the care team,” Julie explains.

“First we ask the patient's family if they would be interested in sharing their story. We do a little bit of background and make sure that we've gone through our HIPAA authorization and consent process. Then there's a conversation that happens between the care provider and the patient to gauge their interest.” Once all the parties are comfortable with telling the story, the story ideation process begins.

“We work with a team of contractors and individuals on our own staff who help us craft these stories,” says Julie. “The team created this story based on the insights that Dane's family provided, and then worked with a production team to develop a video. I became involved as we worked to optimize the video for our social media channels.”

And for Julie and her team, Facebook was the prime platform to share the story due to its longer runtime for videos. So far, Dane's video has received upwards of 12,000 views on the platform.

But to Julie, the most important part is being able to elevate and share these powerful stories about patients.

“One thing we really need to be mindful of is always, always being respectful of the patient's privacy,” says Julie. “I feel a duty and responsibility to make sure the stories that we tell convey that family's experience from their perspective.”

Julie shares that the best advice for someone looking to tell these kinds of stories is that the care team should be front and center in terms of surfacing stories to feature. “They are the best people to coordinate with when it comes to finding and elevating these stories,” explains Julie. “Since they work with patients all the time, they have a good sense of who might be in a place where they would be willing to share their story. And so for me, it really is a partnership between what we do in social media and marketing to share these stories, and working with the care team.”

Julie Jenkins has been a member of SocialMedia.org Health since 2017. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.