PFCC Star of the month: Kathy Kehoe, nurse


Kathy Kehoe is this month’s PFCC Star, an award given to members of the Children’s staff who have been recognized for their commitment to caring for patients and their families. Inga Murawski and William Nahorniak were very pleased to nominate Kathy for the award, a recognition they feel is truly deserved.

To see Eva today, it’s hard to believe she spent the first six months of her life in the Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Now five years old, Eva was born with long-gap esophageal atresia, a condition in which the esophagus, which normally connects the mouth to the stomach, doesn’t develop properly.

When Eva’s parents, Inga and William first arrived in the NICU days after she was born, they were quite overwhelmed. “You don’t know much about your child’s illness, and you have no idea how long you’ll be there,” says Inga. One of the first people they met was Kathy Kehoe, a nurse who has been in the NICU for most of her career. A few days after Eva was admitted, Kathy approached Inga about being Eva’s primary nurse. As the months progressed, they developed a very strong bond, and Inga says Kathy was instrumental in helping them learn about Eva’s condition and how they could be part of her care. “Eva’s tubes were very complicated and Kathy helped us understand how they work, and how to hold Eva or even bathe her with all her tubes in place,” says Inga. Kathy works at night and Inga acknowledges that knowing she was there overnight helped reassure them and ease their stress.

Working at nights is not everyone’s cup of tea but for Kathy, it was a good fit. “It was a routine that worked really well for me especially when I was raising my children,” she says. “I also learned pretty early on that I’m not much of a morning person,” she says with a laugh.

The NICU environment always attracted Kathy, and for most of her career at the Children’s, she has worked in neonatal care. About 10 years ago, she added another role to her work after completing the course to become a transport nurse. “Sometimes we meet flights transporting babies from up north but our work mostly involves going to nearby hospitals to stabilize a baby then bring them to our NICU,” she says. The nights where Kathy is assigned to transport mean less hands-on care on the unit, but she and her transport colleagues do whatever they can on the unit, while always being ready to go out at a moment’s notice.

When it comes to patient- and family-centered care, Kathy believes it’s an essential component to ensuring successful outcomes. “Working with a family is the right thing to do, particularly in the NICU where the baby is so vulnerable and there’s so much for the parents to learn before their baby can go home,” she says. “I’ve always told parents that they know their baby better than anybody else, so it only makes sense to encourage them and bring them into the process.” She adds that for parents, being able to take part in whichever way they can gives them a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

Kathy also believes that making sure parents’ needs are being met is an important part of patient- and family-centered care. Working at nights, she says it’s nice to know that parents trust her and feel comfortable enough to go home for a while. “If the parents are home resting, that’s an important part of caring for the family,” she says. “I’ve often said, it they don’t call you during the night to see how their baby is doing, that’s a good thing.”