by Matt Skoufalos
On days when the weather cooperates, the Redfern family likes to take in seasonal activities in New England — hiking in the spring, visiting the beach in the summer, diving in leaf piles in the fall and building snowmen in the winter.
Pediatric nurse Kate Redfern, RN, BSN, CNOR, has more of an opportunity to enjoy all those things with her husband, Paul, and children John, Sophie, and Will, since moving to part-time status at Connecticut Children’s Hospital in Hartford, Conn.
“I must say that it is wonderful to have your career and be at home with your kids,” Redfern said. “Currently, I am fortunate to work part-time. It’s a wonderful work/life balance. I’m able to have my career and at the same time able to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms.
“[But] I truly love where I work, I love what I do, and I love the people that I work with,” she said. “Where else could you find that?”
For Redfern, the job of being a mom extended naturally from the things she loved about her career, as a pediatric nurse, which boils down to one thing.
“I really wanted to help people,” she said. “I was always interested in helping others and seeing that people can be the best that they can be.”
After graduating nursing school, Redfern completed the usual circuit of assignments — hospice care, emergent care — and finally landed in the operating room at Connecticut Children’s Hospital, where she found her niche.
“I’ll never leave the OR,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”
“I love that it’s different each day, and I love that you have one patient to care for at a time, one patient to totally focus on, and in some ways, you can’t be distracted from that.”
Pediatric nursing is, in many ways, far more challenging than other forms of nursing, because the patients are so vulnerable, and the stakes are tremendously high. Redfern acknowledges that responsibility, but said it doesn’t distract her from getting the job done.
“Typically people who work with children, I just think that that’s where they really want to be,” she said.
“I think sometimes you see, ‘Oh that [patient is] the same age as my son or my daughter,’ ” she said. “It definitely brings [an emotional component], but I think that you’re going to give the best care possible to that child [regardless].”
Caring for children in such a setting is tough yet rewarding, Redfern said, and for the most part, the children set the tone.
“You have some days that you’re leaving in tears, maybe, if things didn’t turn out so great,” she said, “but kids are so positive, no matter what they’re facing.”
“How can that not put a smile on your face if someone’s going through something so tough and they can still smile and give you a high-five?”
At Connecticut Children’s Hospital, Redfern said, the saving grace for families facing such significant medical issues is the superior level of care provided there. A myriad of specialists can confer on difficult cases without families needing to travel to multiple locations in order for their children to be seen.
“You have all the experts right there at your fingertips,” she said.
And Redfern should know: she’s worked at the facility for almost 14 years. As Connecticut Children’s Hospital pushes to earn a magnet designation, Redfern said she’s seen nurses take a larger role in its leadership, from establishing a nursing practice council to instituting shared governance as part of a coordinated care team.
“Our goal is to give nurses a unified voice, and go over what our practice currently is and how it can change for the better,” Redfern said. “We’re focusing on evidence-based practice, and just really trying to give nurses a bigger voice in the hospital.”
Whether contributing to research, quality assurance, staff development, or patient and family needs, Redfern feels nurses at Connecticut Children’s Hospital have driven progress in a variety of areas in the past year.
“I think we’re making strides,” she said. “I think everyone realizes that we can change some of the things that we do, even with just handoffs to fellow nurses; ways to simplify things for the organization and make it streamlined.”
“I enjoy the people that I work with,” she said. “We’re definitely a team and we stand behind each other 100 percent. I don’t doubt that my coworkers have my back and I have theirs.”
Redfern credits her director-level executives with giving nurses the opportunity to have more of a voice in the facility as well.
“Right now, we have a chief nursing officer that is very focused on giving a voice to nurses, and thinking ‘How can we thrive and make this the best hospital we can be with the best practice?’ ” she said.
“I think people are much more in tune with change coming down the road, and maybe sometimes giving it a chance.”
Redfern said ongoing education is a big component of the nursing career track, whether healthcare workers pursue bachelor’s or master’s degrees, or other advanced certifications.
Yet even as nurses work to educate themselves to be better prepared to take on more responsibility at the hospital, Redfern said she believes that the cost-consciousness that affects so much of healthcare still plays a big part in its day-to-day operations.
Being “cognizant of the fact of healthcare changes,” of “not getting as much [financial] reimbursement and support” in the field affects every decision, she said, even in deciding whether to open a package of surgical tools before performing a procedure.
“I see that nurses are going to have a bigger voice and a bigger role to play, and along with that is accountability too,” she said.