RN enjoys playing with the kids at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, located in Bethany
story and photo by James Coburn
Cassie Smith wears many hats as a registered nurse serving as nurse coordinator of the Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, she said.
She meets with all of the parents in the unit if they have any struggles or concerns. If she does not know the answer, Smith will find someone who can help. She provides the information and education that they need about their child’s progress.
“If there are any problems in the unit, I try to solve those and coordinate the care to make it best for the patient and family,” she said.
She chose to work with pediatrics because as she said, “I get paid to be a giant goof. The kids that come in here depending on their age don’t even know why they are here. And if I come in to the room with the thought that this child is here for such a sad incident, it doesn’t do any good at all.”
“If I walk in and I’m goofy and fun I kind of make their morning a little bit better. I get to be a goof and play with kids and I like playing with kids.”
Children’s bodies are amazing she said in their ability to recover. They can do a lot, she added. Smith also admires the children’s families for their perseverance when life is not easy. The nurses become attached to the children and their families making her career more personal than she would find in a regular hospital setting, she said.
“We have a continuity of care. We have the same group of nurses making rounds through the rehab, and so those parents get to know us by name,” Smith said.
The only way nurses succeed working in the pediatric rehab is to help one another in a team effort. They are good about having each other’s back and supporting the families, she continued.
A common trait among the staff at The Children’s Center, Smith said, is they all have a huge heart for the children. Nurses are often asked why they work there.
“It goes back to what I said before. I don’t walk in thinking that child was abused. I walk in thinking that’s an adorable kid. I’m going to play,” Smith explained. “Everybody has a good work ethic here. They just love being here. It’s not work; you just enjoy it.”
Her journey as a nurse began when an uncle was in a serious car accident. He was ejected from the vehicle resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury.
“He died multiple times and they recovered him,” she said. “Watching him go through the process of a brain injury and coming out of that coma; it was intriguing to me having been with the doctor and hearing his prognosis, and then seeing what he did, it just told me a neuro surgeon and the brain doctors of that team can give you their best educated guess, but truly it’s up to the body.”
Even then the doctors explained to her that children’s bodies are more capable, especially their brain, when it comes to recovering after such a severe injury.
Her experience sparked her interest to serve at The Children’s Center. Smith earned her nursing degree at OSU/OKC and started working at The Children’s Center two weeks before beginning nursing school eight years ago. She worked there as a CNA and a nurse tech.
“It helped a lot to learn for sure in nursing school being here,” she said.
She had met with a former head of the human resources department who persuaded her to come to the hospital. There she met a nurse who became a friend. The nurse said, “Come with me. This group is really fun.”
The nurse told her how much The Children’s Center needs nursing assistants. Smith felt the call to serve there.
“I literally fell on the job and got hired,” Smith continued. “I’ve been here ever since and loved it.”
Not everything is perfect all the time in any profession. Everyone needs their leisure time to relax and rejuvenate.
Smith has two young girls, ages 4 and 18 months. Being a mother naturally takes a lot of her time.
She and her husband have a camper and go on weekend trips. Anything that involves the outdoors is good for her family.
“When I was young my mom took us backpacking,” she said. “When they’re old enough to go to Colorado and Arkansas we’ll start doing some of those things.”