Receiving the Henry K. Silver Memorial Award was a memorable experience. This was truly one of the highlights of my career….
I believe everyone we meet throughout our lives influences us in some way. In my practice, I always emphasize that a child grows and develops within the context of family first. My parents were my first mentors. My mother, Margaret, was a graduate of the Hospital of Saint Raphael School of Nursing in New Haven, Connecticut and modeled for me the very essence of TLC, the tender loving care essential to nursing and nurturing. My father, Robert, had his college aspirations interrupted by WWII when he left UCONN and joined the Marines. Although he never completed his studies, he was the brightest and most well-read person I have ever known, always seen with a book.
I met my husband Alan on the very first day of my first job as a PNP, February 5, 1979, at the Walter E. Fernald Center for individuals with intellectual disabilities. He is now a service coordinator for adults in the community. We married May 30, 1981. He has literally traveled with me along my entire journey as an advanced practice nurse. Without his support, I would never have accomplished any of my goals or taken advantage of the opportunities I have been afforded.
Then, there are my books. As a young girl at the Alma E. Pagels Elementary School in West Haven, Conn., I borrowed every single biography of a woman from the library shelves! I read about Jane Addams and Hull House, Lillian Wald and the New York Settlements, and Madame Curie and radium! I would buy a chapter book with my small allowance every week and one of my favorites was Nurses Who Lead the Way, a chapter book with stories about nurses who made a difference. My admiration for all of these independent and strong women knew no bounds. I grew up knowing I too would be a leader and somehow make a difference -although I honestly did not grow up planning to be a nurse.
Reading was my entry into the world and I cannot emphasize enough its importance. I still am a voracious reader and still love biographies. I am currently collaborating with my sister and colleague Dr. Patrice Farquharson on research regarding emergent literacy and bullying prevention in preschoolers.
There are many challenges we face as healthcare providers, especially with the increasing complexity of health care today. However, as PNPs there is one startling issue that we all need to be aware of -- the diminishing place of pediatrics in the nursing profession. Ironically, the role of the nurse practitioner originated as a means of bringing needed primary care, especially health promotion and prevention, to infants and young children. Loretta Ford, our nurse practitioner founder, collaborated with Henry K. Silver, a pediatrician, in 1965 and the rest is history.
In preparation for our session at this year’s annual conference in which we reported on outcomes from Dual Acute and Primary Care PNP programs, my colleagues, Elizabeth Hawkins Walsh, Mary Berg and I explored this very topic. Nurses with expertise in pediatrics are in short supply for many reasons. Time devoted to pediatrics is being shortened dramatically in undergraduate nursing curricula. PNP programs report lower enrollments, and as a consequence PNP graduates have significantly decreased. In 1965 PNPs comprised 100 percent of the NP population but today PNPs comprise only 4.5 percent of the entire NP population. Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) make up the largest proportion of all NPs. The pediatric content and experience in FNP programs varies widely.
Interestingly, I find in my international work that specialization occurs more frequently at the pre-licensure level of nursing education. Nurses are required to be educated as pediatric nurses initially if they wish to care for children. It is expected globally that nurses who care for children possess specific skills and competencies. Yet we in the USA are now in danger of eliminating pediatrics as a specialty.
This diminishing emphasis on pediatric nursing may seem to be an isolated problem solely for educators but it is not. If we value the unique skills and competencies we as PNPs offer in caring for our pediatric population, we all need to be aware of this issue. We need to encourage young people to choose pediatrics and increase the demand. We need to continue to make consumers aware of our value and what we bring to the table. There is enough room for all kinds of providers in this complex health care system. We do not need to be competitive among ourselves or with our colleagues but rather be collaborative and complementary.
I am proud of many accomplishments throughout my career, including raising two grown sons, who are my proudest accomplishment.
My area of clinical expertise is child development, both normal and abnormal. As a young undergraduate student, professors instilled in me the concept that practice, research and scholarship should all be integrated in a clinical profession. So for almost 40 years, I have made a conscious effort to keep up with practice and integrate all that I do. I am proud that I have been able to keep that vow, and also intertwine my practice and scholarship. I believe my teaching, practice and scholarship are all richer for the effort.
Since 1989 when I embarked on my academic career, I am proud to have used my clinical expertise to help develop national and international standards and competencies to guide practice, policy and nursing education.
Most of all I am proud to have influenced more than 1,000 young nurses throughout my career -– both PNPs and NPs in other roles. It is so gratifying to have students thank you for opening their eyes to new ideas, or for helping them broaden their perspective. I believe mentoring students and colleagues around the globe to advance the art and science of nursing has been my greatest contribution to the profession.
NAPNAP is my professional family. We share the same basic values and beliefs. We face the same challenges. We have the same history. I attended my first NAPNAP conference in Washington DC in 1980. Since 1996, I’ve been hosting a reception during the annual conference, open to students and alumna, members and all colleagues. It is something we look forward to every year!
Networking is a strong enticement for many of us to come to the annual conference and belong to special interest groups throughout the year. We can get many of the CE offerings online now, but nothing replaces the sense of camaraderie and pleasure of seeing old friends and wonder at making new ones.
See other recipients from the 36th Annual Conference.