Heather Walsh, MSN, RN, PCNS-BC, CHSE, CPN, the Simulation Education Specialist in the Board of Visitors (BOV) Simulation Program, has been at Children’s National Hospital for more than 15 years.
The Tap Dancing Nurse
"I took dance lessons from age five and continued dancing through my 20s. On occasion, I was known to break out my tap shoes, sometimes with Dr. JJ and the other clowns, earning me the nickname 'The Tap Dancing Nurse.'"
“Having kids of my own, I want each and every encounter with our patients and families to be a positive one and strive to contribute to that in my interactions with patients and their families.”
What kind of education and training did you need for your job?
The position requires a master’s degree and education experience. I have a master of science in nursing and am a pediatric clinical nurse specialist. I had the honor of completing the Master Teacher Leadership Development Program at The George Washington University in 2008, through which I learned many strategies to appeal to adult learners. I have worked as a nurse educator for eight years, first on the Respiratory Care Unit, which merged with Medical Care to form 7E, and for the last three years in the Simulation Program.
What’s a typical day at Children’s National like for you?
My schedule revolves around our simulation reservations. Some courses are basic skills training, while other events are very complex, such as a recent simulation of a trauma patient from the ED to the OR at 5 a.m., or with ICU nurse residents transferring a deteriorating patient from PICU to CICU for ECMO deployment. I also have the pleasure of teaching at the on-site clinics, outpatient clinics and Children's National Pediatricians & Associates practices. It’s fun to see so many nurses and attendings I know and former residents at those sites. They’re really appreciative of the opportunity to practice in a team setting and have shared with us stories of being able to apply the skills they practiced in real situations later.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy watching the “a-ha” moments that occur during simulations. Sometimes the simplest, but very important, things are learned in the unfolding of a scenario such as needing to call for help, but not knowing the number to call. The most fulfilling part of my job is often during a post-simulation debriefing, getting to hear to great conversation, sharing of ideas and suggestions for improvement that can positively impact future interactions within the team and also with patients and families.
What do you want your colleagues to know about the work you do here?
Often people ask me about my nursing career as if it’s something in the past. While I really miss patient care (my CF patients especially), I have found that I really enjoy teaching. I am STILL a nurse and am glad I can contribute to teaching nurses, physicians and all of our employees. I also have become very interested in research and am involved in several studies at Children’s including understanding escalation, evaluating programs and validating a tool using simulation. I enjoy teaching Error Prevention and Service Excellence to new employees. Lastly, I co-chair the Clinical Alarms Committee, which is committed to improving patient safety and experience through our improved use of monitoring.
What motivates you to come to work at Children’s National every day?
The kids and their families. Like many employees here, I have an awful commute five days a week, but there’s no place I’d rather work. Having kids of my own, I want each and every encounter with our patients and families to be a positive one and strive to contribute to that in my interactions with patients and their families.