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Pediatric Nurse Practitioners on Front Lines of Ensuring Family Acceptance and Delivery of Vaccines to Children and Adolescents

NEW YORK (Feb. 23, 2015) – Disneyland in California may have been ground zero for the current measles outbreak in the U.S. but convincing parents and caregivers that vaccinations are safe and necessary is a national priority for pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs). Overcoming parental concerns through a combination of active listening, education and attentive follow-up are skills employed by PNPs and other advanced practice registered nurses to protect children from potentially deadly diseases. The current measles outbreak has surpassed 147 children in 17 states and two countries.

“Pediatric nurse practitioners are primary healthcare professionals and take care of millions of children a year,” said Mary Beth Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP. “PNPs and other providers place the highest priority on childhood vaccinations because they are essential to both the life-long health of the individual and general public health.” Dr. Koslap-Petraco is a member of the Nurse Advisory Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and served on the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. She is speaking on “CDC 2015: Updating the Evidence for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners” at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) annual conference March 11-14 in Las Vegas. In the session, Dr. Koslap-Petraco will discuss appropriate intervals between vaccines in accelerated immunization schedules and determine what vaccines need to be administered, as well as describe interventions to improve adolescent immunization rates. Each year, the CDC immunization session is one of the most widely attended at the NAPNAP conference.

“PNPs spend on average 20 minutes with their patients. PNPs value quality time with parents and families and are highly skilled in building positive, trusting relationships with parents. We make every effort to understand parents’ perspectives while providing important evidence-based information to encourage acceptance of immunization practices,” said Mary Chesney, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN, NAPNAP president. “Seventy-five percent of our members work in general pediatrics and immunizations are always listed in the top five of medications prescribed by PNPs.”

NAPNAP updated its “Position Statement on Immunizations” in late 2014. According to lead author of the statement, Tami Thomas, PhD, CPNP, FAAN, FAANP, “It is vital for PNPs and healthcare colleagues to lay the groundwork for thoughtful discussions about vaccinations. PNPs demonstrating professional behavior, kindness, direct eye contact and reflective listening – while difficult to achieve in a busy exam room – help put parents more at ease with controversial issues like vaccinations.” The position statement further emphasizes that immunization acceptance and compliance is fundamental to provider-patient relationships.  

“When parents or caregivers ask,” Dr. Thomas says, “I always share some of my own encounters with children who have died from pertussis and my diagnosis of a small infant with measles over 18 years ago.” PNPs are skilled educators that work one-on-one with families, involve parents and children in decision-making, and design and share patient resources. Providing accurate information and time for families to review and discuss the importance of vaccinating their child is essential. Dr. Thomas finds that parents return to vaccinate children when they fully and completely understand the science and reasons why vaccination is a crucial health issue for their children.

More than 120 child health experts will present in 75 education sessions at NAPNAP’s 36th Pediatric Health Care conference before an audience of more than 1,500 advanced practice nurses and other healthcare providers. Other topics of interest include: a new health and immunization screening resource for clinicians working with immigrant populations; The Great Sugar Debate; Kids on Meds; and How Wearable Technology and Telemedicine will Change Your Practice. A roundtable discussion on adolescent health is expected to bring new emphasis to the patient population.