Marlene Thompson is not afraid of a challenge — and, apparently, not of her life-size skeleton and roommate, Mortimer, either. After working as a nurse in Akron Children’s PICU for 13 years, she was ready to push herself to face a new challenge head-on and feel the thrill of change once again.
Today, she is proud to trail blaze a new position as certified nurse practitioner in Akron Children’s Department of Rheumatology. She hopes her experience in the PICU gives her a strong foundation to diagnose and treat children and teens with joint and muscle inflammation, and autoimmune diseases, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever and Kawasaki syndrome.
In the end, it was a favorite quote that encouraged Marlene to make the leap: “In any given moment we have 2 options: To step forward into growth or step backward into safety.” She’s proud to have chosen the former and face whatever challenge comes her way because nothing brings her more joy than helping a child get back to their place as a kid.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
I started at Akron Children’s as a nurse tech in the PICU in 2008. I went into nursing because I knew I wanted to make a career in working with children and I was always fascinated with the inner workings of the human body so it seemed to fit. At the time, I had just finished my 2nd year at the University of Akron Nursing School and when the opportunity to work at ACH presented itself, I jumped on it!
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish?
I’ve worked in the PICU for more than 13 years, but I decided I needed to try something different. Rheumatology couldn’t be any more different! I’m excited for a new challenge. This Rheumatology NP role is a brand new position and I know the team has big plans for me. I hope that my experience in the PICU provides me with a sound foundation to grow into a valued member of the Rheum team!
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
I chose to go to Rheumatology because while I’ll always have a sentimental connection to the PICU, I honestly felt like I needed a change of pace from the constant hustle and bustle of intensive care.
Drs. Steven Spalding and Kathryn Cook, and CNP Nancy Delnay made the decision to work with them easy. My first clinical was actually with Nancy so I already knew that we would work great together. I’m looking forward to the change of pace and getting really good at one specialty. Rheumatology is an expanding field and it will be fun to be a part of this growing family.
When did you decide to become a provider and why?
As odd as this sounds, I found signs everywhere for this change. For example, daily quotes are sent to my email and one day this quote really resonated with me: “In any given moment we have 2 options: To step forward into growth or step backward into safety.” — Abraham Maslow
I realized I was becoming very comfortable in the PICU. Looking back, I see how much I grew these past 13 years because the PICU gave me a lot of opportunities to become “uncomfortable,” but it is time to push myself again. I’m ready to step forward into growth and feel the thrill of a challenge again.
How does your personality fit your role?
I am a goofy kid at heart. While I embrace the challenges of my role as a healthcare provider, nothing brings me more joy than helping a child get back to their place as a kid before they were sick. I was brought up in a family where we all suffer from “Peter Pan” syndrome, wearing costumes at any hint of a holiday, or watching Disney movies until we know them by heart. Just the other night, I was looking through my closet and got giggly about getting to wear all my cat-themed dresses to work instead of scrubs. It’s all for the kids, right?
What impression do you hope to leave with your patients each day?
I hope that my patients and families leave feeling heard, and they trust that I’m here to help and improve their quality of life. I want them to know that I truly care about their well-being and they are in good hands coming to Akron Children’s.
What’s the best part of your day?
Can I say lunch? I’m very food oriented. I think anyone can win me over with a sandwich. LOL But seriously, I love having that time midday to reflect on my morning and recharge for the afternoon.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
On a particularly difficult day, I will vent to The Stooges (my cats). Not many people know this, but cats are excellent listeners, but their advice can be lacking. You can also find me unwinding in my hot tub, Bubbles, or watching the Browns kick butt with friends and family. I also find nature to be very grounding.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
I live with 3 cats: Larry, Curly and Moe, my life-size skeleton, Mortimer (don’t worry, he is plaster), and my 2 vehicles, Sasha my Vespa (100% named after JD’s scooter in Scrubs), and Doug, my orange RAV4 (I promised him if the Browns win the Super Bowl that I would paint the brown and white stripes bumper to bumper).
I do have a very close-knit human family, too. I couldn’t have worked full time and gone to grad school without the love and support from my parents and sister.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It depended on my mood on how I answered this question as a kid. Some days, I wanted to be a mermaid, others a beautician. I remember having a nervous breakdown when I was told I could not grow up and be a cat. On most days, I would say I wanted to be a mortician; maybe it was my obsession with The Addams Family and The Munsters. Who knows, I was a weird kid, but I’m glad I went into the direction I did. No regrets.
What’s your superpower?
I fancy myself a bit of a MacGyver. I can get myself out of a lot of pickles with random things that I can find in my purse. Like just today, I got a cart full of groceries home (including eggs) on my Vespa without any casualties. I even got a large pizza home on Sasha without losing my dinner with only a plastic bag and a keychain.
What’s your favorite holiday?
Dyngus Day! It is a Polish holiday, held the Monday after Easter to celebrate the end of Lent and the joys of Easter. Cleveland holds a huge festival every year, and in 2018, I won the Miss Dyngus Day Pageant. I had to polka, smash down 5 pierogies as fast as I could, show off my babushka, finish the polka lyric, and write and recite a Polish haiku. More than 40,000 people celebrated with me that day. My dad cried. I was pushed on a float in the parade. It was all very ridiculous, but it was the proudest moment of my life. So once a Dyngus, always a Dyngus: I wear that sash with pride any chance I get.
Who’s on your playlist?
I love music! My dad is a musician and I grew up listening to him play the songs he wrote. But alas, Elvis Presley stole my heart and became my number one man. Sorry Dad! I listen to everything, though. Phil Collins, Genesis, Peter Noone and The Herman’s Hermits, Steely Dan, Metallica, NSYNC, Snoop Dog. I’m really into AJR right now, although I have my “emo” moments and dive into the deep tracks of Dashboard Confessional, too. I will say, though, that smooth jazz is my kryptonite. I cannot stand smooth jazz!