Kellie Svendsen, pulmonary function tech in the Robert T. Stone, MD, Respiratory Center, was recently honored with The PHIL (Pulmonary Health and Illnesses of the Lungs) Award for excellence in respiratory therapy. The PHIL award is the only nationally recognized hospital-based recognition program dedicated to honoring outstanding respiratory therapists who provide exemplary care and treatment for patients with respiratory illnesses, as nominated by patients, family members and other caregivers.
Ryan Cohen, operations manager in pulmonary medicine and Kellie’s supervisor, was not surprised that she was chosen for this honor.
“Kellie is very compassionate,” he said. “Her dedication and willingness to do whatever it takes to care for our patients amazes me every time I see her.”
Kellie, who worked for many years as an assistant librarian, says attending a funeral of a young mom 15 years ago led to an epiphany about the career track she was on.
“A friend of mine asked me to accompany her to a funeral of a young mom who had died from a brain tumor,” she said. “I went as support for my friend, but my life pretty much changed that day. I had two young kids at the time and a stress-free job that I loved, but it was pretty much just a job. I decided I wanted to have a career that helped others and made an impact on lives. I wanted a job that mattered to me.”
Returning to school in 2009 at Cuyahoga Community College, Kellie says she picked respiratory therapy because she wanted to work in a hospital, but she didn’t want to be a nurse. For the past 5 years, she has worked in the pulmonary department doing pulmonary function testing for asthma and cystic fibrosis (CF) patients – meaning she gets to work with adults and kids.
“Before I came to Children’s, I worked in adult hospitals so getting to still work with adults was an added bonus,” she said. “My favorite part of the job is building relationships with my patients. I have the pleasure of seeing them on a repeat basis (not just the CF patients, but kids with asthma as well). I love building those relationships within the hospital walls to make the setting more comfortable for the patients. Kids aren’t scared if they recognize you and remember how fun their last visit was.”
Kellie was nominated for the PHIL award by adult cystic fibrosis patient Kelli Love who described her as an encourager at heart.
“Kellie is truly a light to all who are in the CF clinic,” she said. “She is forever cheerful and excited to see her patients. She’s patient and asks us how we are doing. And, the thing is, she listens to the answer. She makes my clinic days something I look forward to rather than dread. In fact, I schedule my appointments on the days she works because having an encounter with her helps me face what I will go on to face, be it good news or bad.”
Knowing she was nominated by one of her patients makes the award even more special to Kellie.
“When I walked into the award ceremony and saw Kelli, I was so humbled,” she said. “She is an amazing person who I admire very much so for her to take the time to nominate me means more than I could ever put into words.
“My patients are special to me. I feel like I get way more from them than they get from me,” Kellie added. “They teach me courage and perseverance even through the hardest times. I see hope and determination when I work with them.”