Amy Felix is exactly the person you want to have around in an emergency. She can remain calm under the most stressful circumstances, a trait that makes her a great Manager in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Of course, it wasn’t always that way. In high school while volunteering at Boston Children’s Hospital, she was asked to sit with a patient who had a history of seizures and was on an EEG monitor while his mother went for coffee. Two minutes later, the patient had a seizure—and Amy panicked.

“I hit all of the call bells for every nurse and doctor to come in and help him,” she says. “Only the nurse came. She silenced the alarms and held the patient as the seizure was resolving.”

It was in that moment of action that Amy decided she wanted to be a Pediatric Nurse. “I learned not to panic. I like fast-paced environments that require you to be flexible and to think quickly,” she says. “The Emergency Department is busy, and it is fast-paced. It can be exhausting. But I love my job in Emergency Medicine because I can make an impact on patients and families at some of the scariest times in their lives.”

As a nurse, Amy knows the importance of her role for patients. “We are never just a nurse. I was reminded of this during my last position as a      Nurse Practitioner in Gastroenterology, where I was responsible for the care of patients in the clinic and following up with patients, particularly inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients. Prior to my departure, I visited one of my patients—who was in the Emergency Department—with the Attending Physician. When told that I was leaving the hospital, the patient asked, ‘Well, who am I going to call?’ The physician was shocked the patient wouldn’t have immediately thought to call her since she’s the doctor. That’s truly a moment I knew that my care impacted that patient greatly, and I should never take my role as a nurse practitioner for granted or downplay my value in patient care.”

Neither does she downplay her value as an innovator. “I always work to improve systems, patient care, or roles. During my time at Maimonides, we had an increase in the patients with IBD who were not responding to traditional therapies. The Director of Pediatric Gastroenterology and I knew that we needed to start biologic therapy for a subset of patients to decrease progression of the disease. In our GI department, we did not have access to an area to infuse patients nor enough staffing. We collaborated with the Hematology/Oncology department to have our patients receive biologic infusions in their infusion center. I created the treatment protocols, order sets, scheduling of the infusions, and follow up with the patients. We started with one patient and quickly expanded to five. Although I had never started a program before, it was a great opportunity, and the hospital still uses the system I created today.” 

Pediatric behavioral health is where Amy’s interests are currently. “I was trained as an acute care PNP and consider myself very knowledgeable about the care of pediatric patients and medical diagnoses—however, about three years ago I noticed an increase in the behavioral patients presenting in the Emergency Department, with patients ranging from five to 18 years of age.”

“The complaints ranged from aggression, anxiety, depression, and suicidality,” she continues. “When caring for these patients—particularly those in our Emergency Room that were awaiting placements in psychiatric facilities, more common after the close of Philadelphia’s Crisis Center last year—I realized I was not as knowledgeable as I need to be around how to care for pediatric patients with behavioral health diagnoses. Further, I didn’t have a background in how to screen these patients. I have become involved in the Quality Improvement work to improve how we care for these patients, including presenting information on how to assess them using validated mental health screening tools. My hope is to make every provider aware that they should screen all patients at all times—and once they do screen them, they should also have systems in place to assist patients.”

As a graduate of Penn Nursing’s BSN and MSN programs, she credits her education with preparing her to lead the way as a changemaker. “My professors—some of the world’s best nursing scientists—were great role models for me. It allowed me to dream big about my role as a nurse and things I could accomplish. I hope that in my current role leadership role at CHOP I can continue to advocate for the Nurse Practitioner role, mentor new Nurse Practitioners in role development, and support Nurse Practitioners in following their passions, as I have.”

Random Fact: Amy loves to travel, has visited 17 countries, of which 5 of them she did solo.    She notes, “One of my most memorable adventures was when I visited Tiger Kingdom in Thailand and took pictures with the tigers. For some reason I was not scared—but once I left the site I saw a rat running across the walkway and screamed. Apparently, I am more afraid of rats than tigers!”