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Palliative Care ACD Nikashia Franklin pictured. Text reads, I am the devoted advocate. I am the Difference. Headshot Image.png
Texas Children’s Hospital

Nikashia Franklin is the Devoted Advocate

Around every corner of Texas Children’s Hospital, you will find joy. Unexpected delight is not only welcomed but also intentionally fostered. For Assistant Clinical Director of Palliative Care Nikashia Franklin, the consistency and level of joy here are signs we are doing something right. 

Nikashia and her team have the unique responsibility of providing care for patients with serious illnesses. They work beside the medical team to provide an improved quality of life for children and their families during any stage of a patient’s treatment or illness. 

“Every time I see a patient family smiling, I’m reminded we’re able to be here to help them do that,” says Nikashia. “And when, no matter how hard they look, they can’t find a reason to smile, it’s because of the reputation of this organization that they feel safe enough to share those moments with us too.” 

The Privilege of Working in Palliative Care 

From the time she was old enough to play with toy doctor kits, Nikashia wanted to work in health care. In college, she chose to pursue pre-med but, after a pivotal primary care practice externship, switched her focus to nursing, where she felt she would have the most time and opportunity to interact with patients. 

“Anybody in the hospital requiring the care of a healthcare provider is vulnerable but I knew I wanted to work with vulnerable populations: the very old or the very young —someone who couldn’t otherwise help themselves.” 

As a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse at another Houston-area hospital, she experienced a patient’s death for the first time. Feeling paralyzed and out of her depth, she turned to her preceptor for help guiding and comforting the family. 

“He took the reins, and I watched how grateful that family was for him being beside them during those moments. I decided I wouldn’t miss that opportunity again.” 

Nikashia says there was a magnetic pull for her to be at Texas Children’s and she began her career here 13 years ago. At first, she couldn’t see herself working outside the NICU. She was already a nursing leader when the retiring incumbent in her current position reached out to see if she was interested in an opportunity with the palliative team. 

“I now realize that every opportunity to be a part of the lives of my family members and friends was preparing me to step into this role. I still don’t believe I get to do it every day.” 

When building her palliative care team, Nikashia looks for those who recognize what a privilege it is to do this work. Emotional intelligence, an ability to “read the room” and interpret silence or nonverbal communication, and demonstrated compassion and grace are equally, if not more important, than technical skills. 

Support for the Fellow Traveler 

“When I explain to people what I do, they say they can’t imagine how difficult it is —and some days are— but it’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.” 

To recharge and replenish, Nikashia says her dog is a source of comfort and distraction. She has a ten-year-old Yorkie – Shih Tzu mix who is named after two of her former NICU patients.  

“We’ve grown up together in a way and dogs are so intuitive. She always knows when Mommy has had a hard day, and she snuggles a little bit closer.”  

Nikashia also relies on close relationships with friends and family and regular work outs for support. She says that investing in her mental and physical health has always been important but that she only recently discovered how working out benefits both. 

Advocating at Work and at Home 

As a middle child, Nikashia is used to being the peacemaker. She finds few things more fulfilling than advocating for someone to achieve or obtain something that they otherwise would not be able to for themselves.  

Nikashia has been known to step into the role of advocate for her siblings, her nephews, her friends and, most recently, her parents. Last year, her father was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. “He has always been the provider and protector for our family, so it was a shock to us all, especially my mom.” 

Nikashia helps her parents navigate the medical system and ensures that her father is happy, healthy and safe. She considers traveling at their side along this journey not only the least she can do, but an honor. 

“The best part is listening to him reminisce and filling in the gaps in his memory to the best of my ability. I even got a tattoo that says, ‘I will remember for you,’ as a reminder of the gift that has been given to me by way of this terrible disease.” 

Being able to advocate for others is also Nikashia’s favorite part of her job. She provides a safe space for her team when they need it and uses her influence to leverage conversations, address concerns and get to the end goal. She encourages her colleagues, whether in leadership or at the bedside, to show up unapologetically as themselves to tap into their highest potential. 

The Gift of Collateral Beauty 

Collaboration with colleagues and support from Texas Children’s are essential as Nikashia and her team help patients and families find what she calls the “collateral beauty” in their circumstances. 

She recalls an opportunity she and her team had, to take care of a young lady who they didn’t think would be able to go home. The patient’s greatest wish was to get out of the hospital and see her puppy. Working with the clinical care team, Nikashia’s palliative care team arranged to transport the girl to the valet concourse where her dog was waiting outside.  

“There was so much joy in her face, and the dog recognized ‘this is my girl,’” remembers Nikashia, who found the experience especially meaningful as a dog mom herself.  

Explaining why her team does their absolute best to mitigate obstacles for the greater good of their patients, she says, “everyone deserves to have a small glimpse of joy in the face of such uncertainty or during their most difficult days.”  

It is devoted advocates like Nikashia and our palliative care team who are “The Difference” at Texas Children’s, making it a special place by giving the gift of collateral beauty to our patients every day. If you want to Be the Difference for our patients, there is a role for you at Texas Children’s. Search for openings and apply today.