Cindy Bennett-Brown, pediatric and adult nurse practitioner, has always had two speeds: fast and off. Cindy’s mother, a nurse who worked at Robinson Memorial Hospital, recognized early on that Cindy liked the “adrenaline rush” she got from being where the action is, especially through sports. After Cindy graduated from nursing school, Akron Children’s burn center provided the challenges and complexity she sought. Later, she found inspiration through education and became one of Children’s first advanced practice nurse (APN) practitioners.
“As one of the first 4 APNs at Children’s, it was a struggle to introduce the mid-level provider concept, but we saw a need for this kind of collaboration with physicians to improve patient care,” Cindy said. “Two decades later, more than 200 advanced practice providers (APPs) work at Children’s.”
On July 2, Cindy plans to take the off-ramp to retirement after 42 years at Children’s. But true to form, she intends to seek thrills and find challenges in other ways, such as working at a free clinic, going on medical mission trips and/or becoming a medical consultant or teacher. On quieter days, Cindy plans to enjoy time with her husband, mother, and family or visit with friends.
What brought you to Children’s?
I did a pediatric rotation here while at Akron City Hospital School of Nursing and discovered my passion was caring for kids. It helped that my sister, Cathy, was 10 and my brother, Joe, was 7, which made understanding and interacting with my little patients easier.
What was going on in your life then?
When I started, Ohio was experiencing the worst blizzard ever recorded. It created a crisis. Employees couldn’t get to work. Those who were here worked long shifts. It was amazing how everyone came together during that difficult time. Now, I’m retiring during a global pandemic! Once again, I feel proud of our teamwork during this crisis.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I started in the burn center, working there a total of 13 years as both a nurse, and later, an APN. That experience taught me the importance of self-care in healthcare. I learned where to draw the line and how to give emotional support and tough love to help patients achieve better outcomes. My next role was in pediatric nephrology for 8 years as a nurse clinician before I joined the sport medicine center as its first nurse practitioner. The more I saw patients with sports-related concussions, the more interested I became in evaluating and managing traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) using treatments founded on research and innovation. Eight years ago, I joined the neurodevelopmental science center’s head injury clinic to coordinate and develop our TBI program.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
I’m proud of my work to help Children’s understand and embrace the value of APPs. The APP concept was new, and we needed to address viability, billing and reimbursement issues, define health care roles and gain acceptance in the 1990s. Now, APPs are appreciated and play a vital role at Children’s. I’ve also recruited several family members to work at Children’s, including Cathy, who worked as a nurse on the 6200 floor; Joe, who was in the medical library, and Cathy’s husband, Carlo Cornacchione, who is in the centralized core lab.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
I’ve laughed and cried often with my co-workers, who’ve been like family to me. The burn center and its caregivers hold a special place in my heart. I remember after a house fire with multiple injuries, how everyone pitched in, including Dr. Clifford Boeckman, retired surgeon and burn center director, who mopped the tub room floor. I’ve also enjoyed the friendships I’ve developed in each department and while competing on Children’s corporate challenge, golf and softball teams.
With so many little children here, did someone especially touch your heart?
I remember the resiliency of a 12-year old boy, who was burned from an electrical injury. He lost one arm. When Dr. Robert Klein, retired pediatric surgeon and burn center director, told him he couldn’t save the other arm, the boy asked, “Then how will I be able to ride my bike?” It broke our hearts. But Dr. Klein explained how he would get prosthetic arms. A year later, that boy was back at Children’s getting his prosthetics repaired after he helped his friend pull a boat out of the water.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
A new way of living with more time to enjoy church activities, boating, pickleball, gardening, gourmet cooking and spending the evening in a rocker by the lake.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Treat patients and their families the way you want to be treated and never compromise loving care and compassion.
Interested in working at Akron Children’s? Check our career site for current opportunities.
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