Families from around the world bring their children to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for complex and serious neurological conditions that require surgery. They come to Children’s Hospital because the neurosurgeons are world renowned for their expertise, and that high level of care is reflected in the program’s #6 ranking by US News & World Report.
What families soon realize, however, is that the world-class professionals, and even the ranking, goes well beyond the neurosurgeons. There is a group of dedicated physician assistants and nurse practitioners, called Peds Mid-Level, who compassionately help families plan their visit, answer their questions about scans and surgeries, and provide follow-up care. Similar to the neurosurgeons, they are members of the Washington University Department of Neurosurgery, and they assist and provide care throughout the patient’s journey.
“We hold their hands when talking about the surgery, and what to expect,” said Elaine Kennedy, a pediatric nurse practitioner for Washington University’s Department of Neurosurgery. “Then we’re with them through the surgery and hospital stay and the follow-ups. We get to know the families and are by their side for the whole process.”
“Many patients we first meet when they are babies, one, two or three years old. Then we see them grow up in front of us, and get to see how much they have accomplished,” said Kennedy whose entire 17-year career has been working in pediatric neurosurgery, including the years she worked towards and received her nursing degree, then her masters as nursing practitioner.
The Peds Mid-Levels group includes Nicole Meyer and Rebecca Palis, who are physician assistants; Kennedy and Dyan Cooper, who are pediatric nurse practitioners; and Elizabeth O’Brien, who is a family nurse practitioner. They all provide inpatient and outpatient care to the children who receive neurosurgical care at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Meyer, Palis, Cooper and O’Brien also provide assistance in the operating room, mostly working with TS Park, MD, on selective dorsal rhizotomies.
In addition to sharing the compassion and expertise it takes to care for pediatric neurosurgical patients, this group also shares the common experience of motherhood. Between the five of them, the group has 11 children all under the age of 10, including Meyer and Cooper’s sets of twins. Still adding to the group, O’Brien is on maternity leave and will return just in time for Kennedy to have her third child, which will bring the grand total to 12.
“We are more than co-workers,” said Kennedy. “We are friends, we talk about our kids. We really lean on each other for advice. It makes coming here every day a pleasure. It’s just enjoyable to be able to come to work and see your friends at work, which is a nice feeling to have.”