Ellen Cohen, radiology clinical manager, and Leah Ott, staff nurse on the infant unit, have a long history with Akron Children’s Hospital that began when they were both very young girls. You could say working at the hospital has become something of a family affair – both their father and mother worked here. Their mom, 40-year hospital veteran Kim Oldfield, still does. Currently she serves as epilepsy program coordinator in the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center (NDSC) and both Ellen and Leah cite their mom as the reason they chose to pursue nursing as a career.
“I witnessed my mom’s love and compassion for her career and it drew me in,” said Ellen.
Growing up Ellen remembers accompanying her mom to work and always being astonished at how friendly everyone was.
“We would walk down the halls and everyone knew my mom by name and greeted her. I just assumed each of them worked with her,” she joked.
Kim’s passion for her work was infectious.
“My mom would rope me and my twin brother, Luke, into dressing up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse at the annual Cerebral Palsy picnic,” she said. “We always got a kick out of seeing the kids’ faces light up when they saw us.”
Their dad, the late Richard Oldfield, worked in the engineering department for 10 years.
“I remember visiting my father at work and getting to see his office in the depths of the hospital,” said Leah. “We would pretend we were on a mission to not be seen or heard by staff as we walked through the ‘secret’ passageways.”
Spreading the love
When Ellen married her husband, Ryan, she shared her passion for the mission of the hospital with him.
“I knew the hospital did remarkable things to help patients and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Ryan, who served as a revenue improvement specialist and is now the operations manager for Pulmonary and Allergy. “I was a surgical patient here as a child, and my 2-year-old son has been a patient here. Knowing my coworkers have helped my son is an amazing feeling.”
Ellen and Kim also had a hand in recruiting Leah to Children’s in 2017.
“We worked to direct her to where she would be happiest,” said Kim. “Ellen has been a mentor to Leah. She answered many questions and counselled her through delicate situations. I am so proud of both of them. I know they will impact many lives and continue my legacy at the hospital long after I am gone.”
Wanting to help patients beyond his administrative role, Ryan decided to join the hospital’s Doggie Brigade in 2017 with his and Ellen’s 7-year-old Australian cattle dog, Bella.
“Bella is the love of my husband’s life,” said Ellen. “She has always been the heart of our family. We wanted to share her love with all of the staff and patients here at Akron Children’s. Ryan has made it a tradition to bring her to the hospital on Christmas Day to make a special visit to patients and families.”
In addition to her immediate family members who work here, Ellen and Leah’s aunt, Sally Begue, is the hospital’s gift shop manager. And her hospital “family” extends beyond her relatives – to the teams she has worked with.
“We were snowed in after our shift,” she said, recalling her tenure on the oncology unit. “Instead of battling the snow, a group of nurses from 5600 (oncology unit) stayed the night at the hospital. We bought pizza from the cafeteria and helped on the floor until everything was calm. We slept in the outpatient clinic area. It’s an evening I won’t ever forget.”
For Leah, getting together for breakfast with her family after she is finishing up the night shift is something she relishes.
“We all meet in the hospital cafeteria to eat breakfast,” she said. “It usually ends up with all of us laughing so hard we cry. After a long shift I tend to say some pretty funny things.”
Leaving a legacy
For the Oldfields and the Cohens there is an unspoken rule: Akron Children’s represents home and family – by blood and by choice.
“My work here is not yet done,” said Kim. “I deeply enjoy my coworkers, families and patients. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow. The people of Akron Children’s Hospital are the core of who I am and who I have become.”
Both Leah and Ellen echo their mother’s sentiments.
“I think there is an understanding in my family if you find a good thing you hold on to it and tell everybody you know,” said Leah. “I would say working at Children’s is the best kept secret, but that’s definitely not the case because we don’t keep it a secret. We all love it so much we are trying to get everybody in here.”
“People truly love what they do and enjoy coming to work and it shows,” said Ellen. “The culture of Akron Children’s is unlike anywhere else.”