From a preschooler’s funny response to a child responding well to treatment, Audrey Swank is laser focused on the positive when at all possible. It’s a mindset that better helps her comfort and connect with patient families when faced with a bump in the road.
Audrey brings that optimistic perspective to her new role as our first physician assistant at both Akron Children’s primary care office and the new Quick Care location in Austintown. She’s quick to point out the bright side when treating chronic and acute medical conditions, minor injuries and illnesses in infants, children and teens.
As a self-described extrovert and mother of 3, Audrey enjoys being a special part of families’ lives and seeing her patients grow, change and thrive. Whether at home or the office, she enjoys being surrounded by kids because to her, they have a way of making everything lighter.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
I chose Akron Children’s because I wanted to be a part of a hospital community that prioritizes evidence-based medicine, fosters teamwork amongst its employees, and prioritizes the growth of its providers as individuals through continued education and leadership opportunities.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish.
My role at Akron Children’s is a primary care and Quick Care provider at the Austintown location. I’m very excited to be a part of the Austintown team as they start the Quick Care program there on March 4.
I hope that my role will help create greater access to health care for patients in Austintown and the surrounding area. As the first physician assistant (PA) hired on the Austintown team, I also hope to provide a positive example as to the role of a PA in the primary pediatric setting.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
As a pediatric primary care PA, my focus is treating both chronic and acute conditions in pediatric patients from birth to young adulthood. I really enjoy this health-care setting because I get to be a special part of families’ lives and see how children grow, change and thrive.
Of course, it’s always a bonus to listen to children’s innocent perspectives on an event they experienced or something they thought was funny. Kids just have a way of making everything lighter, and I really enjoy those moments.
What impression do you hope to leave with your patients each day?
I hope I leave the impression of empathy and confidence. I think we’ve all been in situations where we didn’t feel understood or heard and it’s an awful feeling, especially where your health or the health of your child is concerned. I strive to demonstrate empathy in all situations and patient encounters.
I also want my patients and their families to feel confident in the care I provide them. PAs might be a new type of provider for a lot of my families, and I can certainly understand some hesitation when it comes to being cared for by one. I hope to earn this confidence in my care by addressing concerns and providing thorough education.
How does your personality fit your role?
I’m an extroverted person. I really enjoy meeting new people, catching up with old friends or just being around people in general. In my role, I get to talk to people a lot, which I really enjoy.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
I think everyone can appreciate how difficult the last year has been for all, let alone health-care workers. Even before the pandemic, health-care workers faced many difficult days and now it’s just been amplified. I try my best to focus on the good when at all possible. Some days, it’s a funny story from a patient, while others it’s a patient that’s improving with my plan of care.
What excites you most about medicine?
Practicing medicine is like solving a puzzle. The patient’s symptoms and exam findings are signs (or clues) that you have to put together in your mind to diagnose (or solve) the problem (or mystery). It’s a real life challenge every day and it has a significant impact when you solve it.
What would you most like to change about health care today?
I think health care should be more affordable for everyone. It’s devastating to experience parents struggling to pay for treatments for their children or avoiding care because they’re worried about costs.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
I married my junior high sweetheart, Jake, in 2013. Together, we have 3 daughters: Hadley, Monroe and Corinn. We also have 2 dogs: Calla and Bentley. It’s a full house. There’s definitely never a dull moment and there’s always someone to talk to or give hugs.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up, I wanted to be a pediatrician. When I was about half way into my undergraduate career, I decided to pursue a master’s degree instead of a doctorate. A friend of mine was planning on becoming a PA, and I honestly had never heard of the position before then. After more research, I realized it was a great alternative to medical school. Now, I get to function in a role that I always saw myself in, but as a different type of provider on the team.
What is one thing you haven’t done yet that you would like to achieve?
I started running in the last 3 years. I’ve run a few 5Ks here and there, but my goal is to get up to a 10K. There are probably no marathons in my future, but I have really started to enjoy running — something that I always hated in high school.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
When I’m not working, I’m usually spending time with my family and friends. In the warmer months, we like to spend time outside, swimming or riding bikes, and in the winter, we enjoy staying cozy inside playing board games or watching movies.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
The beach! I’m one of those people who doesn’t really feel like it was a vacation unless I went to the beach. I enjoy how different it is from home: the sand, sun, ocean and palm trees. I love Ohio and experiencing the 4 seasons, but for vacation, I want to swim, lay in the sun (with sunscreen, of course) and relax!