Dr. Katherine “Kay” Hesse has a resume steeped in pediatric excellence from top medical institutions, but that’s not the only reason she was selected by Lawrence + Memorial Hospital to run its new Pediatric Emergency Department.
Hesse also brings a level of caring and understanding to the job that she admits has little to do with her education or fellowship training, yet it sure goes to the heart of what it means to deal with kids.
It’s called being a mom.
“I have two girls, ages 4 and 2,” Hesse says. “Being a parent has made my job both easier and harder. There’s a degree of practicality and empathy that only comes with being a parent, no matter how many years of school I’ve been through.
“Being a parent brings an invaluable dimension to my practice,” she continued. “Personally, when I see difficult things happen to patients, particularly when they’re comparable in age to mine, it’s much harder for me than before I had children. But it also helps me to give more realistic advice to families.”
Hesse used to practice at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, and it was a job she enjoyed. But she joined L+M in March for one of the most exciting opportunities of her career – the chance to establish the first and only pediatric emergency department in all of eastern Connecticut.
“I was quite happy at CCMC,” she says, “but when I heard about this in the works at L+M, I thought, what an incredible opportunity. Having grown up in Connecticut and having worked in a primary children’s hospital for so long – it made me realize that all the patients in this corner of the state were really in need of a service like this, and it’s a thrill to be part of it from the beginning.”
The L+M Pediatric Emergency Department (PED) remains a work in progress, continuing to grow and expand as staff and space allow. This week, for example, the PED officially expanded its operations to five days a week, from 3 to 11 p.m., with a goal of expanding to seven days a week in the near future.
The way it works is easy: pediatric patients (newborns up to 18-year-olds) who present at the ED between 3 and 11 p.m. are directed to L+M’s Ambulatory Surgical Unit – an area adjacent to the main ER which transforms in the afternoon into pediatric emergency care.
While L+M’s main ED is always capable and ready to care for a sick or injured child, the new pediatric emergency department provides kids and their families a more peaceful and calming environment, with a focus specifically on the needs of children. The change at L+M also means additional beds in the ED are available each evening for adult patients.
For Hesse, who holds a master’s degree in public health and who was fellowship trained in pediatric emergency medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, a Harvard affiliate, the chance to practice what she loves at L+M is an exciting new chapter in her career.
“Treating children is very rewarding,” she says. “They tend to be well, they tend to get well and they’re very forgiving. Sometimes, all it takes is something small, like offering stickers or a popsicle, and suddenly the ER experience is a little less daunting.
“The goal is to help,” Hesse says, “and with children, they’re very thankful when you fix what hurts. They’ll become a new person right in front of you. It’s nice to be able to feel that you’ve made a difference.”
Dealing with kids, however, also means dealing with parents, and that’s where Hesse’s maternal nature again comes in handy, educating parents on what she calls “anticipatory guidance and prevention,” which means helping educate parents on injury prevention, vaccines and healthy lifestyles.
“A child is a person who has so much potential, and a parent usually wants to help their child, even more than they would for themselves,” she says. “I like the idea of being able to help guide parents in protecting their children.”
Overall, Hesse is confident that pediatric emergency care at L+M will be a benefit for the region.
“I hope this is a welcome service for the community and I hope they like it,” she says. “We’re going to evolve and grow over time, and hopefully we can relieve some of the stress for families, not obligating them to drive an hour out of their way to get the help they need for their child.”
To learn more about Dr. Hesse, click here.