The Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) working at Gateway care for all newborns; primarily in the NICU and attend 60% of all deliveries. NICUs rely on the neonatal APRN to play a vital role in caring for critically ill neonates. As a healthcare provider on an interprofessional team, a NNP participates in a wide variety of complex patient care activities that both acute and chronic care. The practice is multifaceted and includes integration of research, education, practice, and management with a high degree of autonomy. Advanced health assessment skills, critical decision-making, diagnostic reasoning, and advanced clinical competencies are also important aspects of the neonatal APRN role. Procedures performed include endotracheal intubation, ventilator management, arterial puncture, umbilical line and chest tube placement, needle aspiration of the chest, suprapubic bladder tap and lumbar puncture. As front line providers, NNPs interact with families building rapport and facilitating ongoing communication at a stressful time in a family's life; when their baby is ill.
Gateway is a community hospital in Clarksville, Tennessee, with its own unique challenges. There is one NNP staffed 24/7 to provide newborn care and emergency airway and IV access up to age 2 as needed. A Vanderbilt Neonatologist provides care during the day and on-call after hours. Consequently, the NNP must be able to function autonomously and be able to resuscitate critically ill neonates at a moment's notice. We frequently have one, or two (twins) resuscitations/admissions with the NNP as team leader with minimal support. Gateway NICU transfers patients needing more complex care, long term ventilator management, or a higher level of care to Vanderbilt. Working in a smaller town, the healthcare professional needs to develop meaningful relationships with families, staff, administration to provide the best of care to patients.
I graduated from University of Alabama, Birmingham, (UAB) in 1982 with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I also received the Florence Nightingale Award - the graduating class selects the peer they would most want to provide care during a hospitalization.
I started in the NICU at UAB 2 weeks later and functioned as a charge nurse and transport nurse. I helped to develop our Air transport team and was very involved in the flight training. I later worked at Childrens Hospital and trained in Atlanta to be part of the first ECMO team.
As I wanted to continue to provide quality neonatal care through clinical practice and research, I completed my Masters of Science in Nursing in 1996. I was privileged to receive the Excellence of Practice Award. I have worked at Gateway Memorial as a NNP for 14 years and have mentored many students allowing me to share my love of this wonderful career.
Later, relocating to an area where NNPs were not utilized, I again returned to school and became certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). Once again, I was honored to receive the Excellence in Practice Award.
Although I loved the four years of diversity inherent in family practice, I missed neonates and their families. I returned to the NNP role at Sacred Heart in Pensacola. I enjoyed living on the Gulf Coast but when an opening at Gateway became available, I decided to relocate to Tennessee. I love my job and am glad to part of the Gateway family.
I am married to Greg Clark and we live in Gallatin, Tennessee. We have a sweet cocker spaniel named Zoe. I have always been a runner but when Greg introduced me to cycling, I fell in love with the sport. Growing up in Florida, I liked to swim so he dared me to compete in a triathalon. I participated in my first Sprint Triathlon in 2014 and won first place in my age group. We now train together and have completed 5 triathlons. I also love going on Medical Mission as the people are so appreciative and I get to use my FNP skills. I am excited to be a part of Vanderbilt and all the opportunities that working with a large academic medical center offers.