Our Nurse of the Week is Amanda Ward Braswell, a 2017 graduate from Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing and recent recipient of a Fulbright grant to India. The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the US government to increase mutual understanding between people of the US and people of other countries.
Beginning in the fall, Braswell will temporarily leave her post as a registered nurse in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit at Medical City Dallas to live in Bengaluru, India, on the Bangalore Baptist Hospital (BBH)/Rebekah Ann Naylor School of Nursing (RANSON) campus. Braswell will conduct her research project with residents from DJ Halli, the largest slum in Bangalore, where rates of illiteracy and a variety of health disparities run high.
Braswell tells Baylor.edu, “The No. 1 cause of death in India is non-communicable disease, such as cardiovascular disease, and this is something that can be prevented if people have the knowledge about modifying certain aspects of their diet, for example. So my project will study the perception of food, dietary habits and the accessibility of food and find the link to cardiovascular disease with the goal of bridging the knowledge gap.”
Braswell became interested in Bengaluru, India on a mission trip in July 2017 with two of her nursing professors and a few peers from Baylor’s nursing program. Through a partnership with BBH/RANSON, Braswell and colleagues taught 200 nurses at the hospital how to initiate intravenous punctures while reducing the risk for infection and conducted research on the effectiveness of their teaching.
After finishing her Fulbright year, Braswell hopes to publish her research findings and return to Medical City Dallas, with graduate school a strong possibility in the future. Braswell is considering earning her DNP or PhD while continuing in the field of nursing research.
To learn more about Braswell’s work as a Fulbright scholar in India and future plans for her career in nursing, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Sgt. Cesar Aguirre who, not knowing what path he wanted to take in life, enlisted as a medic in the US Army and eventually found a passion for nursing. After several years of service, Aguirre will soon be starting nursing school at the University of South Florida.
Aguirre began looking into the military during his senior year of high school. Knowing the medical field would always be in demand, he decided he wanted to become a combat medic. The first opening to become available was for a combat medic with Airborne included as well, and Aguirre decided to accept it. He left for basic training a few months later, then went on to combat medic training and Airborne School at the 82 Airborne Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
After serving as a medic there from 2011 to 2015, including deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 and a joint service mission in Indonesia, Aguirre began looking into what else the Army had to offer. He had enjoyed being a combat medic to 30 infantrymen but he wanted to know more about the aid he was providing.
After hearing about a program that allows service members to become an Army Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Aguirre headed to LVN school. His clinical rotations introduced him to civilian care and he fell in love with nursing, deciding to continue to pursue it.
Aguirre discovered a commissioning program that would send him to college to become a Registered Nurse and commission him as an officer in the US Army. After recently completing his pre-requisite courses, Aguirre will soon be attending nursing school at the University of South Florida to become a registered nurse.
Aguirre is a strong believer that the military experience is what you make of it and he encourages others to take advantage of every opportunity available to them. To learn more about Aguirre’s path from Army combat medic to registered nurse, visit here.
In honor of National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2018), our Nurses of the Week are Ana Verzone and Jackie Baer, two nurse practitioners who have dedicated their careers to caring for the neglected and underserved populations in America’s rural regions.
According to The National Rural Health Association (NRHA), the US is facing a major rural health care crisis, with nearly one third of the country’s rural hospitals having closed or at serious risk of closure. This leaves rural populations at risk, often putting the lives of the poor, elderly, and chronically ill in jeopardy.
Both Verzone and Baer credit Jonas Philanthropies – an organization devoted to improving our nation’s healthcare through advancing the nursing profession – for the work they do today. As graduates of the Jonas Scholar program, they were awarded scholarships to achieve their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees. Over 1,000 nurses across all 50 states have received funding support from the Jonas Scholar program to further their doctoral education.
To shed light on the current rural health care crisis, we interviewed Verzone and Baer on their thoughts on the issue, and how they are both personally working to provide care to those most in need.
Q+A with Ana Verzone, FNP, CNM, and Jonas Scholar
Ana Verzone is a nursing educator and practitioner who has brought care to the most remote communities across the globe, from Alaskan villages to Nepal, where she conducted her doctoral research on improving communication between rural clinics and emergency rooms. Verzone now teaches future generations of nurses at Frontier Nursing University and the University of Alaska, helping to address the nationwide shortage of nursing faculty and rural primary care providers.
- Tell us about your background in nursing.
I love to travel, and before I became a nurse, I was a professional mountaineering guide in Nepal, amongst other places. While passing through a rural village I met two nurse practitioners conducting research on the impact of high altitude on health – they were incredibly inspiring. Knowing I wanted to serve others, I decided to follow their paths and become a nurse. I earned a Master’s in Nursing from the University of California, San Francisco and then worked at San Francisco General Hospital in the emergency department.
I knew continuing my education would empower me to help underserved communities, as well as eventually teach. Thanks to Jonas Philanthropies, an organization that supports doctoral nursing students through its Jonas Scholar program, I was able to pursue my doctorate as a way to give back to the profession I became so passionate about, and to address the shortage of nursing faculty in America. With support from this scholarship, I was able to improve care in remote regions of Nepal, continue my work in remote Alaskan villages, and teach the next generation of future nurses.
Today I work as adjunct faculty at Frontier Nursing University, where I received my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. I have also taught in the University of Alaska’s nursing program.
- How did you develop a passion for rural health care?
My mother was a first-generation immigrant, and my father was second-generation. I grew up in a poor environment that exposed me to the great need in underserved communities and inspired me to find ways that I could help improve nursing care in these areas with a sustainable impact. I have worked in private settings, but my heart was always in providing primary care to the less fortunate, because otherwise these communities would have no other options. Rural areas remain the most at risk; they continue to be neglected and there’s still much work to be done.
- How are you personally working to combat the rural health care crisis?
I am currently a member of the National Quality Forum’s (NQF) Measure Applications Partnership (MAP) Rural Healthcare Workgroup. This is a multi-stakeholder group that aims to identify appropriate quality measures and measurement gaps relevant to vulnerable individuals in rural areas, and provide recommendations regarding the alignment and coordination efforts of measurement in the rural population. This Workgroup will ensure the perspectives of rural residents and providers—those who are most affected and most knowledgeable about rural measurement challenges and solutions—have adequate representation on MAP.This group will provide recommendations to the federal government for Medicare/CMS’s measurement standards.
Of note: NQF is the only consensus-based healthcare organization in the nation as defined by the Office of Management and Budget. This status allows the federal government to rely on NQF-defined measures or healthcare practices as the best, evidence-based approaches to improving care. The federal government, states, and private sector organizations use NQF’s endorsed measures, which must meet rigorous criteria, to evaluate performance and share information with patients and their families.
My doctoral project focused on improving emergency transports from rural outreach clinics to large referral hospitals in Nepal and was very successful. The protocols I initiated during my project are continuing even though my project itself is complete. I remain committed to rural Alaskans, and continue to serve this population. I also make sure to volunteer in rural areas internationally, so I can keep my finger on the pulse of these issues on a global level. I travel with my family when I do this, since it’s important to me that my daughter also grows up exposed to these issues. My husband is a physician assistant, so he can also actively participate in these trips on the healthcare side as well.
I also hope to improve the quality of healthcare delivered in rural areas by committing to train the next generation of advanced-practice nurses to excel in rural settings. This is important to me especially as a Jonas Scholar, as Jonas Philanthropies empowers nurses to take leadership and faculty roles, to ultimately advance the nursing profession and improve care for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Frontier Nursing University, where I currently work, is committed to training advanced-practice nurses that want to serve rural populations, and my work at the University of Alaska supported training students in the specific needs of rural Alaskan regions. Rural areas often require a practitioner to have a wider breadth of skills (primary care practitioners in particular) and have fewer resources available. There are challenges such as geographic isolation or small practice size, limited time, staff, and infrastructure for internal quality improvement efforts. Advanced-practice nurses are a critical part of the solution for these issues.
Q+A with Jackie Baer, APRN, DNP, FNP-BC, and Jonas Scholar
Jackie Baer is a nurse practitioner who runs a free clinic in rural South Carolina, serving 3,000 uninsured patients per year. After witnessing the similarities in healthcare conditions for the poor in rural South Carolina compared to mission camps she served in Venezuela, Baer decided to leave her work in the privatized healthcare sector to serve the rural communities who need it most.
- Tell us about your background in nursing.
I began my nursing career in 1993, and after earning my Nurse Practitioner degree in 1998, I was still called to continue my higher education in nursing. With help from Jonas Philanthropies’ Jonas Scholar program, an organization that seeks to advance the nursing profession through the higher education of leaders in the field, I earned my Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree at the University of South Carolina. The Jonas Scholar program took a big financial burden off my doctorate education, allowing me to grow as a nurse and connect with a network of nurse leaders that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked in many different arenas: ER, research nurse, home-health, rehab, and even a city jail. The different settings have helped me develop a passion for primary care and preventative medicine. In 2003 I started the first rural health clinic in Johns Island, South Carolina—a very destitute and underserved community. My clinic provides primary care to many in my community, keeping open late into the evening and providing weekend hours to accommodate the working poor.
- How did you develop a passion for rural health care?
In early 2000 I was a single mother and still relatively early in my nursing career. I took a mission trip to Venezuela and was so inspired by the patients who could maintain health and happiness even with a few resources. When I returned to the US, I stumbled upon Johns Island by accident; I got lost while traveling the Sea Islands of South Carolina and came upon the island and its federally qualified healthcare clinic serving the poor. I stopped by to ask for directions, but as fate would have it, I was inspired by the clinic’s work with the local community and began working there shortly after.When I moved to Johns Island and eventually opened the first rural health clinic in the county, I immediately recognized there were similarities to Venezuelan migrant camps and rural communities in South Carolina. Having spent part of my career working in private care, it was heartbreaking to see a great disconnect between how private patients and patients in poor, rural communities are treated. I believe each patient should be given the same care, which is what drives me to continue my work at my clinic today.
Being a nurse in rural healthcare is so much more than providing care—it’s about being an advocate for my patients. I’m helping people who are in great need, and recognizing not everyone has a roof over their heads. That’s why I chose to be a nurse, not a doctor. It’s not just about writing a prescription or providing an operation, it’s more about listening and providing care. Nurses are taught to care for the heart, mind, and the soul. I try to write few prescriptions and instead focus on life skills versus pills. Looking back, I feel that I have not only impacted my patients but improved the health care of families with early diagnosis and intervention. My doctorate thesis was on weight loss in obese African American women and it continues to be a great success for the community I serve.
- How are you personally working to combat the rural health care crisis?
At my clinic, we see around 3,000 patients a year who would otherwise not have primary care options. I feel a very strong connection to my community and am happy to provide a service to the poor. I am blessed to have a 73-year-old supervising physician at the clinic. But if she leaves or heaven forbid something happens to her, my clinic closes! In fact, one physician wanted to charge me $1,000 per month to supervise me in giving medically assisted treatment to patients. The red-tape and financial burden of these agreements continue to overwhelm me.
Health policy change is critical. In South Carolina, I continue to struggle with “agreements” due to outdated laws. Winston Churchill said, “History has a lot to teach and we are doomed if we fail to learn from it.” The National Council of the State Board of Nursing conducted a study in 2018 and found that states with “full practice” authority—the ability for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to work to the full extent of their education—have better outcomes, save taxpayers money, and provide increased care access to rural communities. As doctors continue to leave our rural communities, the opportunity for APRNs is great, but the obstacles in the scope of practice limit success. As a nurse practitioner in rural South Carolina, I work day-by-day under these “agreements,” but could literally be gone tomorrow. Sadly, the injustice in healthcare continues for those that are poor and underserved.
As a highly trusted profession, nursing needs a mammoth legal presence in the state legislature to make sure laws are simple and clear. With fifty years of conclusive data, nursing will win but only if we have a team of lawyers advocating on our behalf. I believe that if “full practice” has improved outcomes for our Veterans, why not for rural America?
Our Nurse of the Week is Rebecca Roma, a floor nurse in the cardiovascular surgical unit at Catholic Medical Center, who used her vacation time to volunteer aboard Mercy Ships. The international charity operates floating hospitals that provide free medical care in some of the poorest spots around the world.
While volunteering for another organization at 15 years old, Roma met a nurse who told her about Mercy Ships. Their mission captured her attention and she never forgot about it. Now 29, Roma recently returned to New Hampshire after serving on Mercy Ships for eight weeks.
Roma’s ship was docked in Cameroon, Africa, where the medical personnel perform life-saving surgeries and life-changing treatments on local residents. Volunteers also provide training to local doctors and nurses. Many patients in the region have medical conditions that distort their appearance, and for many, Mercy Ships is the first place they’ve come where someone welcomes them and takes care of them.
Roma tells UnionLeader.com, “The whole mission here is to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.”
Roma went to nursing school because she knew she wanted to do something that involved helping people. Even though it took almost 15 years, she never lost her dream of serving on a Mercy Ship. In February, she took a leave of absence to serve eight weeks aboard the ship, using vacation time to pull it off.
Now that her tenure on the ship has ended, Roma recalls experiencing firsthand how the kind of medical care so often taken for granted at home can change lives elsewhere. To learn more about Roma’s volunteer work as a nurse aboard Mercy Ships, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Peggy Phillips, a retired registered school nurse who was aboard the damaged Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia last week following an engine failure. Phillips heroically rushed to the aid of critically injured passenger Jennifer Riordan who unfortunately lost her life.
Phillips recalled the terrifying incident to abc7NY, describing her efforts to save her fellow passenger. Passengers first heard a loud noise about 20 minutes into their flight, right before the plane began to shake. After an engine failure led to one the jet’s windows shattering, Riordan was partially pulled out of the airplane before two fellow passengers pulled her back in.
Hearing the commotion a few rows behind her, Phillips quickly responded after a passenger called for anyone who knew CPR. With the help of an EMT on board, Phillips performed CPR for more than 20 minutes until the pilot was able to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
Phillips tells abc7NY.com, “There are a lot of really thoughtful and heroic things that went on during the flight. I can honestly say I was very proud of everyone that was involved in this.”
She is grateful for the pilot, crew, and her fellow passengers who performed lifesaving acts that allowed the rest of those on board to make a safe emergency landing. To learn more about Phillips and the aid she provided to a critically injured passenger, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Sarah Sellers, a 26-year-old nurse anesthetist at Banner Health Center in Tucson, Arizona who became the runner-up in Monday’s 2018 Boston Marathon. Sellers quickly caught the attention of spectators who wondered who the runner-up was after she finished just four minutes behind Desiree Linden, the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years.
“I think my story probably resonates with a lot of people that work really hard and have big goals. I think it’s cool to show that sometimes, you can have a great day and things can pay off.”
Sellers had no idea she had placed second in the annual marathon until after she had crossed the finish line, a feat that hadn’t seemed possible prior to the race. The Boston Marathon was only the second marathon Sellers had ever run, the first being the Huntsville Marathon in Utah which she ran in September as a qualifier for Boston and won, but Sellers is a past endurance runner who ran well in college before being sidelined by an injury.
Training for the marathon required Sellers to run before and after 10-hour shifts as a full-time nurse. She tells the Boston Globe, “I didn’t even know it was a possibility. I was trying to ask officials what place I was in. I had no idea when I crossed the finish line.” Sellers then found herself waking up Tuesday morning to a packed schedule of news conferences and photo shoots to attend before her afternoon flight back to Tucson to make it to work Wednesday morning.
Many have asked if Sellers plans to leave her job to pursue running full-time but Sellers loves her work as a nurse anesthetist and has no intentions of giving it up for right now. When asked the same question by the Boston Globe, Sellers responded: “I think my story probably resonates with a lot of people that work really hard and have big goals. I think it’s cool to show that sometimes, you can have a great day and things can pay off.”
To learn more about nurse anesthetist Sarah Sellers, the shocking runner-up in Monday’s 2018 Boston Marathon, visit here.