Anyone who talks about riding off into the sunset when they retire will like what Linda Hetson, vice president, professional and support services, has planned. Her perfect day includes racing her WaveRunner across a smooth-as-glass lake and enjoying the thrill and freedom. Linda has always tried to live life to the fullest, maybe because early in her career, she understood how precious life is. Her first job at Akron Children’s included typing autopsy reports for the pathology department. What Linda saw and learned made her appreciate life and good health. It’s a lesson that stayed with her throughout her 41-year career at Children’s.
On June 28, Linda retires from Children’s, a place where she found encouragement, support and more opportunities than she ever imagined. She plans to spend sunny days at Berlin Lake and on Lake Erie: boating, swimming and enjoying her family and friends.
What brought you to Children’s?
I worked as a medical transcriptionist and saw Children’s ad for a medical secretary. Mark Watson, former laboratory administrative director and then chief operating officer, hired me. I worked for Dr. Haynes Robinson, who was the genetics center’s first medical director.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I split my time as a secretary between the genetics center, the pathology department and the pediatrics department, later working in the grants department. I then became planning and grants coordinator, working on Children’s first long-range strategic and facility plans. I remember going through the entire hospital, opening every door and making sure each department’s actual square footage was counted. Next, I became a marketing research and systems manager in the planning and marketing department. Around that time, Bill Considine (CEO Emeritus) asked me to present to the board of directors, which motivated me to pursue new career challenges and complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees. When the nursing department needed a nursing administration and finance director, I asked my mom, a former nurse, what she thought. She enthusiastically said nursing is fabulous. She was right. I worked in the nursing department 24 years. I also served as the co-director of the Decker family development center, administrative director of maternal fetal medicine and, now, vice president, professional and support services.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
Working on Children’s strategic and facility plans in the mid-80s, then seeing those plans merged to shape the hospital’s growth. For instance, patient rooms consisted of 3-4 beds per room back then, not private rooms like today, which are better for patients and their families. I was also the liaison between nursing and the architects, engineers and contractors who built our Centennial Building, coordinating and negotiating to include everything our patients and staff needed.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
We’ve increased from less than 1,000 employees to over 6,000. Plus, we’ve recruited more talented physicians and advanced practice providers and grown our subspecialty services in medicine and surgery. We’ve also embraced new technology and minimally invasive procedures, such as interventional radiology and intraoperative MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which allows a neurosurgeon to determine if a child’s entire brain tumor has been removed before leaving the operating room.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Working collaboratively with our administrative and medical staff to resolve issues, expand services and provide the best care possible to our patients and their families. I love to tell people I work at Children’s.
With so many little children here, did someone or something especially touch your heart?
At the Decker Family Development Center, which provided services for at-risk families, I later met a 14-year-old boy who said he attended the center’s preschool while his mom earned her high school diploma. His mom earned a college degree and began working. The boy said he planned to attend college, too, and that if not for the center, he might be homeless.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
Doing the things I never had time for, like traveling to other countries, visiting the national parks and spending time with our horses.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Most likely you were hired for your skills and the way you fit Children’s unique culture. Please continue to foster this amazing culture.
What couldn’t you live without?
My faith in God, my family and ice cream
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
Christian soft rock through Bluetooth speakers on the boat or while swimming
What’s the last book your read?
“The Bone Curse” by Carrie Rubin, who’s the wife of Dr. Michael Rubin, chair of pediatric radiology