Employee Spotlight - Kim O'Brien, PA-C, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine
Growing up in a medical environment as a physician’s daughter, Kim O’Brien always knew she was destined for a career in the industry. Although she traveled many paths before arriving to her final destination as a physician assistant at Children’s National, she believes that she is finally where she belongs.
O’Brien had a political career for more than 14 years before switching to the medical field. After tiring of politics, she decided on the career that she says she was born to do.
“As a teenager and college student I always worked in a hospital or medical office during the summers,” she said. “I was familiar with the Physician Assistant profession and knew that physician assistants were going to play a major role in the future of healthcare.”
“I truly enjoy working with and treating children more than adult medicine. I love the team of dedicated staff I work with every day in the orthopedics department,” said O’Brien. “But mostly I hope that I am contributing in some small way to improving healthcare for all the children in the DC metro area. It’s pretty rewarding to know that I am playing a small part in improving their lives.”
Kim O'Brien's Special Relief Efforts in Haiti
Video: Haiti Outreach from Children's National Medical Staff
Orthopaedic surgeon John Lovejoy and a team from Children’s National, spent a week helping with the relief effort in Haiti.
Several medical professionals from Children’s National assisted with the relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Kim O’Brien joined a team of pediatric orthopaedic surgery specialists as well as a neurosurgeon, x-ray technicians and nurses who made two separate week-long trips to Haiti to assist pediatric patients.
What was one of your most memorable experiences from your trip to Haiti?
“I had a number of memorable experiences in Haiti, both good and bad. I will have a difficult time forgetting the number of patients that we had to perform amputations on limbs because their wounds were almost a week old by the time they were sent to our hospital in Milot, Haiti. There were quite a few children whose limbs we had to amputate; and even among them, a few orphans. There was one little girl in particular, whom we had to amputate her foot just above the ankle. She was 7 years old and she knew her mother had died in the earthquake. She told me her aunt and grandmother knew she had been airlifted to our hospital in Milot, but she was afraid they would never be able to afford the cost of transportation to come and pick her up. She was so inconsolable as she was telling me her story. It was gut-wrenching,” says O’Brien.
She adds, “On the more positive side of things, I was overwhelmed by the local people of Milot, the town where Le Hopital Sacre Coeur was located. Milot is about 75 miles from Port-au-Prince and it was not affected by the earthquake. The locals came out by the hundreds to volunteer in the effort. Once our team arrived, helicopters started arriving daily with patients from Port-au Prince. The locals came to the hospital to serve as interpreters for us. The local boy scouts and girl scouts served as transports, carrying patients loaded on stretchers from the helicopters to the ambulance. They also escorted patients between the triage, pre-op and post-op areas and the hospital. What little food they had in their homes, they brought down to the schoolyard and cooked meals each day and fed the patients at their bedsides. They comforted the babies and young children at night, holding them and singing them to sleep. I’ve heard that they have even taken some people into their homes once they have been discharged from care, since many have no way to get back to Port-au-Prince or will require follow-up care in a few weeks.”
Was your experience working in the Hôpital Sacré Coeur (HSC) what you expected?
“It was beyond my expectations. I wasn’t really sure what we were walking into other than it was a facility that held clinics year round for the local community. I knew they had a few operating rooms and x-ray capabilities. When we arrived we were welcomed by the local hospital staff and found they had pretty well-stocked operating rooms with the basic supplies. Because this hospital agreed to receive patients form Port-au-Prince, we quickly ran out of much needed supplies such as sterile gowns, masks and face shields. They have very antiquated sterilization equipment and x-ray facilities so this limited the number of cases we could do in the early part of the week. The local hospital staff quickly adapted to the increased surgery schedule and began to spend longer and longer days at the hospital, taking minimal breaks so that we could keep treating patients. They seemed appreciative and grateful for our help. They were eager to adapt to our standards and techniques of surgery without complaints. I'm not sure I could have been so flexible had the tables been turned! They were amazing people. Despite the tragedy which took me to Haiti, it was one of the most positive and life-changing experiences I think I'll ever go through. I am anxious to go back and help in the next few months,” she said.