If she’s not busy treating kids and teens with minor to acute illnesses, certified nurse practitioner Heather Theisen can be found training and riding horses. It’s a passion many people don’t know about her. Heather grew up riding horses, starting at about age 2, and eventually went on to compete — and win a few — local and state competitions. She even trained her own horse, Chance, who is now 23 years old.
These same traits that make Heather an excellent horse owner and trainer — being patient, yet persistent, gentle and determined — are what she brings to her new role as Akron Children’s newest pediatric CNP at our Alliance primary care location.
As a provider for kids — and horses, too! — Heather’s goal is to be someone they can feel comfortable with and trust she will do everything in her power to address their issues. Both children and horses captured her heart a long time ago, and Heather is honored to take the reins of helping them be the very best they can be each and every day.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
I grew up in northeast Ohio and always said I wanted to work for Akron Children’s one day. As I got older and pursued my nursing degree, my husband joined the military and we ended up moving far from here.
We lived in Mississippi for 10 years. During that time, I became a pediatric nurse practitioner. When we had the opportunity to move back to Ohio, I knew exactly where I wanted to work: the pediatric hospital known for making kids a top priority, Akron Children’s.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish.
I am a certified nurse practitioner at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, Alliance. In my role, I hope to make a difference in my patients’ and their families’ lives. My job isn’t just about treating patients at the surface level; it’s getting to know my patients and gaining their trust.
I have been that new mom who feels like she knows nothing; the mom up all night with a sick child; the mom who is new to the area and doesn’t know who she can trust with her child’s care. I want to be able to help other parents in these situations and more. I want to be the provider they can trust and feel comfortable with and know I truly care because I do know what it’s like to be a parent.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
As a nurse, I fell in love with pediatrics, my area of expertise. Taking care of kids is such a privilege I am so honored to have. Kids are honest. If they don’t feel good, you know they don’t feel good. If a child doesn’t take their medicine, it’s probably because it doesn’t taste very good. Children captured my heart a long time ago, and every day I am reminded why.
When did you decide to become a provider and why?
I decided to become a provider after being a nurse for several years. I loved being involved in my patients’ care when they were in the hospital and making a difference. However, I missed being able to follow up with them. I wanted to be able to make those connections and keep growing them over the years. I love the idea of seeing an infant for her first newborn visit and then seeing her celebrate her first birthday, learn her ABCs, start kindergarten, and so on.
What impression do you hope to leave with your patients each day?
I want my patients and families to know without a shadow of a doubt that I care. I care about their health, their concerns and what’s going on in their lives. And, I am going to do everything I can to address those concerns.
What achievements are you most proud of?
One of the achievements I am most proud of is being a lactation counselor, along with being a CNP. This has allowed me to help so many of my breastfeeding moms with questions and concerns make the process a little bit easier. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, but it also can be very demanding and overwhelming, especially at first. So, just being able to help new moms and offer tips in that area has been a blessing.
What is the easiest part of your job?
The easiest part of my job is getting to interact with kids all day, every day. Kids are just so pure and there is such beauty in that simplicity. I love seeing things through a child’s eyes.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
Spending time with my family definitely helps with some of the emotional impact that can come with taking care of patients. I also try doing things that relax me, such as reading, riding my horse, spending time outdoors and playing with my daughter. I also lean on my faith to help me through the hardest times.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
My family consists of myself, my husband, Matthew, and our daughter, Natalie. We also have a Great Dane, Jackson, a quarter horse, Chance, a donkey, Jake, and 2 cats: Squirrel and Chipmunk (Yes, my daughter named them.).
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was growing up, my mom was a pediatric nurse. Since I can remember, I wanted to follow in her footsteps and take care of kids. I always thought of my mom as a hero, and I wanted to be able to make a difference, too.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
On my off time, I do what most moms do: spend time with my daughter and husband, clean, grocery shop, do the laundry and other usual maintenance things. We also just bought an older farmhouse on a big piece of land, so I spend a lot of time renovating, unpacking boxes, painting, working outside and taking care of our animals.
What’s one thing about you that most people don’t know?
Most people don’t know about my love and passion for horses! I grew up riding horses, starting about age 2 or 3 in the field on the oldest, most trustworthy horse. Eventually, I participated in competitions at the local and state levels. I also was a member of 4-H from 5 years old all the way until I was too old to participate.
I have ridden many different horses over the years and even trained my own horse, Chance. Growing up with horses, I didn’t realize these horses were teaching me so much more than how to ride. My horse taught me how to be patient, yet persistent, gentle, how to love, be a hard worker and overcome adversity. Chance is now 23 years old and living his best retired life, but he also is starting my daughter’s journey of falling in love with horses.
What are the small things that make your day better?
The small things that make my day are the heartwarming things my patients do. A few years ago, I had a patient who couldn’t wait to come see me for her wellness checkup. Her parents told me that she practiced this song about the “nurse in her white coat making her feel better” for weeks before her visit. When I walked into the room, she started singing and dancing for me, and I could not stop smiling for the rest of the day.
It truly is the little things that just warm my heart: a child taking the time to draw a picture for me, bringing a family picture with a note or toting along her prized blue ribbon from the spelling bee to show me. It’s those “little” things that mean the world.