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Making Kids Feel Safe

Bea Anne Lynch, RN, MSN, is one of 3 Northern California nurses who was recently recognized with the Kaiser Permanente Extraordinary Nurse Award.

Colleagues describe Bea Anne Lynch as a cross between a superhero and a mother hen — a caregiver with extraordinary powers, a tenacious spirit and the compassion of a saint.

While she’s held many roles in her 40-plus-years as a nurse — including case manager, infection control specialist, employee health coordinator, and advice nurse — Lynch is most proud of her current role: a child psychiatry nurse at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California San Jose Medical Center, serving a population that is often overlooked and misunderstood.

Lynch is so devoted to her work that she refers to her patients as “my kids,” even though she and her husband have 3 children of their own.

“The kids I take care of day in and day out have difficult lives,” she said. “I just want them to feel important. I want them to have good days and be the best they can be.”

Despite her vast nursing skill set, perhaps Lynch’s greatest gift is her ability to relate to her patients and make kids and their parents feel comfortable in her presence.

“She has a knack for creating a safe space for patients,” a coworker wrote. “She serves as a role model and understands how to connect with different pediatric populations with ease.’’

What made you want to be a nurse?

When I was 5 years old, my brother was born severely handicapped. His oxygen was cut off at birth, and because of that he developed epilepsy and cerebral palsy. From that time on, I wanted to be his caregiver. I was always around him, and he was often sick and near death. My brother gave me a special gift: He taught me never to give up and to have compassion.

What do you love about nursing?

I love every single day. I work with a team of therapists, psychiatrists, and pharmacists, and the population we care for includes high-risk children who are battling anxiety and depression as well as those with autism and development disorders. We have a chance to put smiles on their faces. It’s the same with parents who are struggling — we can make a real difference in their lives.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?

As someone who is empathetic and feels people’s pain, it’s sometimes hard for me to let things go — I’m sure a lot of nurses are like that. I sometimes worry that I can’t make everything better.

What was one of your most memorable moments as a nurse?

Once I was spending time with an 11-year-old boy with autism while his anxious parents were consulting with the doctor. I remember complimenting him for being such a good reader and watching his face light up. 

After the parents came out and they were getting ready to leave, the boy started to walk toward me like he wanted to give me a hug. I didn’t immediately reach out to him because oftentimes autistic children are very sensitive to touch. 

He whispered something to his dad who asked me, “Is it okay for him to hug you?”  I said yes, and as I gave him a hug, all I could feel was gratitude that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

His dad told me later, “He doesn’t hug anybody. We’re so grateful he feels comfortable with you.”

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice early in your career, what would you say?

Take better care of yourself. I have always exercised, but in the last 10 years I have developed a regular yoga routine and meditation regimen which has helped me greatly in all areas of my life. 

What advice do you have for nurses who are new to Kaiser Permanente?

Nursing is the hardest job you will ever love. Make sure that your heart is in it so you can be the best for your patients and families. They deserve only the best and all of your heart. 

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’ve run seven half-marathons since I turned 50, and I do 8 to 10 hot yoga classes a week.

Find additional stories of Kaiser Permanente Extraordinary Nurse Award winners and much more at the Kaiser Permanente Nursing Pathways Nurses Week website.