Q&A with Jenna Freitas, MSN, RN
January 8th, 2021
Jenna Freitas, MSN, RN is a Nurse Practitioner on the Pediatric Advanced Care Team at Boston Children's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Jenna is Director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Fellowship within the Harvard Interprofessional Palliative Care Fellowship.
Why did you decide to work in palliative care?
Looking back, I can now say all roads led me to palliative care, however there was no one experience that solidified my choice. As a child and teenager, I both sought out and found myself in situations where I was volunteering or working with children and young adults with medical complexities. In high school I was assigned a year-long volunteer placement at a pediatric center for children with severe neurologic impairment, and my eyes were opened to a population that I had never fully understood or was exposed to prior.
There was never any question in my mind that I wanted to work in pediatrics, however the start of my nursing career was quite varied, working in pediatric psych, pediatric rehabilitation, and pediatric oncology. I loved all three populations and with some contemplation realized that it was the long-term relationships and ability to learn the stories of children and families that drew me to all three of these fields. The thread that could tie these populations together was palliative care. I completed the Harvard Interprofessional Palliative Care Fellowship in 2015-16 and feel at home in palliative care.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
There is no doubt that the best part of my job is the people. Both my co-workers and the families we serve make it easy to come to work each day. I am inspired by children and families who seamlessly navigate complex medical and psychosocial situations, in the face of such uncertainty, on a daily basis.
Another great aspect of pediatric palliative care is that no day is ever the same. While themes may arise over time, we are often faced with unique situations that challenge us and keep us on our toes. I have never been bored at work, time flies by!
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in the smallest (and best) state, Rhode Island. This is where most of my family still lives today. I spent much of my childhood outside, with two older brothers, trying to keep up. Soccer took up most of my time.
I went to Boston University where I planned to obtain my master’s in public health, refusing to acknowledge my mother’s advice to pursue a career in nursing. After studying health care systems abroad in Tanzania and Vietnam, I quickly realized that I wanted to be working in a clinical setting, face to face with people and had to come to terms with my mother’s wisdom. I graduated with a bachelor’s in health sciences and attended Northeastern University where I obtained a second bachelor’s and eventually a master’s in nursing.
I completed the Harvard Interprofessional Palliative Care Fellowship in 2015-16 and was lucky enough to join PACT.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what music, movies or other entertainment would you bring?
This is a tough question; the list could go on and on. Assuming there is unlimited power on this island I would have to bring a lot of music: Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, Phish, The Band and I would need access to all of my favorite podcasts: Armchair Experts, Radiolab, Pod Save etc…I’m also going to assume that the island isn’t completely deserted and that at least one additional person is present, so we’ll need some entertainment: perhaps a tandem kayak, some paddleboards and a frisbee to pass the time!
In your spare time, what do you do for fun?
Most of my spare time these days is spent chasing after an energetic toddler. I love to be outside, really no matter the weather. During the spring and fall I love to go hiking and kayaking. Any spare time in the summer is definitely spent on the beach. During the winter I love to go snow shoeing and sledding. Pre-COVID I loved spending time with friends and family in-person and I cannot wait to be able to have that time together again.