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Celebrating 50 Years!

As the nation’s health care professionals prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nurse practitioner movement during National Nurse Practitioner Week, Nov. 9-15, 2015, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) is proud to have been at the forefront of this nursing evolution as the first professional society for nurse practitioners. We salute our past and present members for all they have done to promote advanced nursing practice.

At the same time that President Lyndon B. Johnson was tackling health care reform to provide more Americans with necessary and affordable health care services, Loretta Ford, a public health nurse, and Henry Silver, M.D., had a vision to balance rising health care costs, increase the number of health care providers and correct the inefficient distribution of health resources. To help achieve these goals, the pair began the first educational program, Public Health Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program, at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1965. Massachusetts General Hospital started its pediatric nurse practitioner program that same year.

Less than a decade later, NAPNAP formed and held its first official meeting in Columbus, Ohio, led by Janet McCleery, CPNP, with the goal of uniting pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) across the country who felt isolated. Being a member of this newly recognized advanced practice registered nursing profession, however, presented many challenges.

“The early years were difficult in that we had to explain to everyone our role,” said McCleery, who is still a NAPNAP member. “There were so few of us that we found it difficult to communicate with each other. In Ohio, we were fortunate to have the support of the Ohio Department of Health, two certificate programs and pediatricians who promoted the role.”

As more nurses enrolled in advanced practice programs, schools transitioned from certificate programs to master’s and post-master’s programs and a national certification exam was instituted to ensure that only highly educated and trained providers were licensed to treat patients. Many institutions developed doctoral level programs for nurse practitioners wishing to expand their knowledge even further. NAPNAP is proud to be an original member of the Licensure, Accreditation, Certification and Education (LACE) Network that analyzed and innovated advanced practice nursing.

For more than 40 years, PNPs have played a key role in providing high-quality, evidence-based health care across the nation in primary, acute and specialty care settings, often delivering care to vulnerable, underserved populations. PNPs and their pediatric-focused APRN colleagues have completed advanced coursework in physical and health assessment, pharmacology and pathophysiology with a focus on health promotion, disease prevention, differential diagnosis and disease management. Given their roots in nursing, they are also widely known for their holistic, family-centered care, often spending significant time educating patients and families on long-term wellness.

From its first telephone tree in 1979  that quickly spread information about legislative issues to the modern day real-time online Advocacy Center, NAPNAP and its members have been actively advocating for children’s health and access to high-quality pediatric-focused APRN providers at federal and state levels with legislative and regulatory bodies, as well as other key stakeholders. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of pediatric-focused APRNs and their fellow pediatric healthcare providers, the Children’s Health Insurance Program is perhaps one of the most significant public health programs instituted in the last half century and continues to provide much needed coverage for millions of children.

Pediatric-focused APRNs have been leaders in various child health innovations. They have been at the forefront of child and adolescent mental health promotion, screening and early evidence-based interventions, including the Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment (COPE) tool. They have also played a lead role in improving child health through culturally appropriate interventions enhancing parent, child and practitioner effectiveness in developing optimal practices in nutrition and physical activity. The school-based healthcare movement has its roots in pediatric nurse practitioner leadership. Pediatric-focused APRNs have also conducted and published important research on childhood asthma and related treatments.

Now in its fifth decade, NAPNAP is a successful organization growing in membership to more than 8,200 members in 49 chapters throughout the country, collaborating in 17 special interest groups, advocating for child health and access to the quality care provided by pediatric-focused APRNs, providing evidenced-based continuing education, hosting national conferences and publishing scholarly research in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care. The Journal of Pediatric Health Care, first published in 1987, is a leading publication responding to the growing demand for evidenced-based clinical and practice related research on a wide range of child health issues.

“While we’ve had a relatively stable number of pediatric nurse practitioner programs at universities across the country and graduates entering the workforce, we have a continued high need for pediatric nurse practitioners and their fellow pediatric-focused APRNs in medically underserved communities – both rural and urban,” said NAPNAP President Cathy Haut, DNP, CPNP-AC, CPNP-PC, CCRN. “The demand for pediatric-focused APRNs will continue to grow as more people seek care as provided by changes in the nation’s health care system.”

The next 50 years will see exponential growth in scientific advancement and health care achievements. Technological innovations will give researchers better tools to develop treatments and cures. New technology will also allow providers to evaluate and treat patients whether in the same room or across the country. As more states approve full practice authority for NPs, patient demand will drive providers and insurers to deliver higher-quality service at reasonable rates. Within this innovative next half century, you are sure find pediatric nurse practitioners and pediatric-focused APRNs improving child health.

Read more about Nurse Practitioner Week from President Cathy Haut.