Kathleen Reid, MS, CPNP-AC, has been a part of our Children’s National Hospital community since 2006, when she completed a summer internship in our Heart and Kidney Unit (HKU). Since then, she has worked as an HKU nurse, a shift coordinator and, since 2014, a nurse practitioner within Cardiology.
As a Maryland native, working at Children’s National was a natural fit for Kathleen. “I have always viewed Children’s as a mecca for pediatric health care,” she says. “Working at a place where everything is built for children, from the design of the hospital down to the code charts, makes me want to never work anywhere else.”
Kathleen has wanted to work in pediatrics since she was eight years old. “I remember going to my pediatrician and thinking that it must be the best job ever to work with kids,” she recalls. “After spending time shadowing in the medical field, I decided that nursing was my calling. I wanted to spend my time at the bedside, making an immediate and direct impact on patient’s lives.”
In her current role, Kathleen works within the Heart Institute as the single ventricle program’s nurse practitioner. “Children with complex congenital single ventricle heart disease are amongst the most critically ill of our cardiac patients. They typically require three heart surgeries or a heart transplant to survive,” Kathleen explains. “I care for these children from the time they are born until they receive their second surgery, around six months of age.”
Kathleen cares for her patients during what is known as the ‘interstage’ period, a tenuous time frame after the child’s first surgery. This is typically the patient’s most high-risk time after birth, which carries about a five percent chance of mortality once they are discharged after their first surgery. “This time period is incredibly stressful and scary for a parent. Not only are they learning how to care for their newborn child, they are also having to learn how to give multiple medications, use feeding tubes, practice CPR and be proficient with a pulse oximeter at home,” Kathleen says. “I tell them that my whole job is to care for babies just like theirs and that I am there to make this time a bit easier for them.”
Kathleen is passionate about providing the best care possible to her little patients and their families, from direct patient care to innovations in quality improvement. “Along with the wonderful physicians who run the single ventricle team with me, I try to stay up to date on all aspects of our patient’s care. Children’s participates in a national pediatric cardiology quality improvement collaborative, and I am always interested in bringing back the innovations that we hear at these conferences,” says Kathleen. “Our current focus is allowing these babies to eat by mouth or bond with their mother through breastfeeding preoperatively. We are hoping to reduce the amount of feeding tubes that these babies have historically needed, making sure that they can all eat cake at their first birthday!”
People often ask Kathleen how she can do what she does. “They say ‘isn’t that such a sad job?.' Really, I have the best job. Of course there are sad, devastating moments where we lose the battle to congenital heart disease. But so much of the time we win, and these babies get to go home with their parents and roll around just like all the other kids their age. That’s a miracle,” Kathleen expresses. “My biggest accomplishments are when I receive photos of my patients as they enter kindergarten or are running around Disney World, being happy, healthy and normal. Knowing that I helped to prevent anything bad from happening to these children in those first few tenuous months of their life is the ultimate reward.”
Kathleen has gained an incredible reputation amongst her colleagues in the Heart Institute for her commitment to her patients and their families. Each quarter, leadership in the Heart Institute presents an ‘MVP’ award to a staff member who has demonstrated excellence in their role. “Kathleen is the only person who has been nominated twice for this award that we started within the Heart Institute several years ago,” says Lisa Hom Wandler, RN, Esq., collaborative practice facilitator for the Heart Institute. “She is universally respected and appreciated by her colleagues as well as the patients and families that she works with as the single ventricle nurse practitioner.”
In her work, Kathleen strives to put her patients and their families at the center of all that she does. “In every role I’ve ever had at Children’s, I try to remember that the kids and their families come first. We can all make their lives a little bit better by going that extra mile,” Kathleen says. “I am so lucky to work in a place that is filled with people who share that same feeling.”
Thank you, Kathleen, for all that you do for our patients, families and hospital community!