By Matthew Cyr
Ellen O'Donnell, MSN, PNP
Has been a nurse for 32 years; got her Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
degree in 1996
What's the difference between a nurse and a nurse practitioner?
I was a nurse for over 24 years, then decided to get a Master's
Degree in Nursing and become a pediatric nurse practitioner. That
has helped me expand my nursing skills to the point where I look
at the entire continuum of care, both outpatient and inpatient.
I do things nurses do like health histories, physical examinations,
diagnosis, and disease management, but I also order lab tests, prescribe
medications, and counsel and educate patients and families on long-term
What do you do in the General Surgery clinic?
I work with the surgeons to evaluate patients before surgery, educate
and teach, and answer questions about things like long-term management
of complex surgical problems. I also help create educational materials
for patients and families, perform research projects and publish
What do you like about working with children?
Children are so honest and open and tell it like it is. They are
so much fun. People ask how I can work with sick kids, but I tell
them that children are the most courageous people I know. They give
anyone they come in contact with an inner strength, a "special"
something of themselves. It's hard to describe, but being able to
connect with them in some small way is really important to me.
What's the best part of your job?
I love meeting new patients and families, staying connected to the
long-term patients and families and making a difference. Sometimes
you don't even know you're making a difference until they come back
and tell you how something you said or did helped them understand
or get through their procedure, test, or intervention. It's great
to know that I have somehow touched these families, but they have
touched me a whole lot more than they know. There are a lot of special
patients and families who take a little piece of your heart with
them, but then you know there is someone else coming who will fill
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nursing at Children’s, contact Cindy Zilch in the Children’s
Hospital Trust at (617) 355-2416 or email@example.com.