So the second weekend in March, I had the pleasure and privilege to attend the National NAPNAP annual conference in New Orleans. I had submitted a poster and was fortunate to have it accepted for presentation. I am generally not excited about conferences but was curious about this very large gathering of pediatric nurse practitioners from across the country. I saw it as a chance to network, share information, and most of all, learn something new. I was not disappointed! And I even made a friend who works in a similar clinical setting in Cincinnati- we certainly had a lot of things in common.
Here are a few reflections from my experience:
I arrived on Thursday in the late afternoon, just in time for wine and appetizers in the large exhibition hall with all the vendors. I was shocked at how many and varied the exhibitors were. There were folks from the medical products industry, community education initiatives as well as colleges and hospitals there for recruitment. It showed me that the medical establishment and associated industries recognize the importance of pediatric nurse practitioners in primary, acute and specialty care. There was a sizable contingent of PNP students, full of enthusiasm, as well as experienced practitioners, full of knowledge to share.
I spent Friday going to a variety of talks, as well as being present with my poster at the appointed time. I enjoyed the session on mindfulness first thing in the morning and it set up the day just right. I am interested in meditation and mindfulness, and promote it in the clinical setting. It is certainly useful for patients with headache and pain, but equally helpful for their providers. I need set aside more time to sit and breathe on a regular basis.
Next was a session on immunizations: an update on current schedule and immunizations in the news. The speaker was dynamic and had a lot to say about the recent recurrence of measles and other diseases for which there are safe and effective vaccines. There is a lot of misinformation in the popular and fringe media about immunizations. The speaker was quite helpful with strategies to deal with and communicate about this issue. Speaking of measles, personally I find it appalling that children are not being vaccinated. Many years ago, in the mid-1980’s, I was a Peace Corps volunteer (and young nurse) in Jamaica. I was involved in research within the University Hospital’s well-baby clinic for 2 initiatives: looking at the optimal age to vaccinate babies against measles (between 6-12 months) and then looking at the maternal-to-infant transmission of measles immunity. Measles was a scourge in the developing world at the time, causing too much illness and even death. I was merely the field worker, giving vaccinations and taking lab samples, but it was difficult to ignore the importance of eliminating this viral illness as much as possible. It’s hard to understand those who would endanger their children as well as those most vulnerable in the community by not vaccinating.
There was a session about becoming a nurse entrepreneur, which was entertaining and interesting. She was mostly focused on independent practice, and it was fascinating to learn about the variety of ways we PNPs practice throughout the country, based on the states we live in. Some of us live in states which restrict our practice (Massachusetts is one of these), others have looser regulations, and some fortunate PNPs work in states that grant Full Practice Authority. There are many proposals in statehouses across this country to grant the resident PNPs Full Practice status. It is hard to imagine that if I wanted to open an independent practice on my own, I could go to any New England state and do it, except the one I live in. I know proponents in MA have been working on this for years, have quite a bit of support, but also a lot of opposition from a variety of interest groups. Considering the health care deserts across the country, having Full Practice Authority would certainly provide much needed care to our citizens in need, especially the most vulnerable.
I had to be present with my poster during the lunchtime, standing by to discuss and inform the visitors. I brought my “A novel approach to head and neck stretching for people with headaches” poster, along with a supply of ‘Pinky’ balls and instruction sheets to give out. The folks seemed interested, most said they took care of a lot of kids with headaches, or had family members with headaches, and were grateful for a parting gift/instruction sheet. I observed many people standing in front of the poster, and then watched them reach up to massage their necks and shoulders. I guess it is a universal problem! I also gave out my business cards, with the blog link on it, in case they wanted to know more about caring for kids and teens with headaches. I am not great at self-promotion so that was a little awkward, but most folks were gracious about it. In the end, I went home with no balls, some cards and just a few instruction sheets leftover. My purpose was served by spreading the information.
I was very interested in a session about best practices in caring for transgender youth. We do have patients who identify as LGBTQ and/or gender fluid, and I know some teens and adults in my community who are transgender in particular. Being a safe place for patients with gender concerns is so important, especially in a clinic that deals with headaches, often stress-induced. I learned some new information about honoring patients and their self-identification that will be useful. Respecting the worth and dignity of all persons is at the core of my practice and life.
Overall the thing that was most apparent to me from attending the NAPNAP conference was the enormous breadth and depth of knowledge, compassion and dedication that was demonstrated in the education sessions, and all the other venues. We care deeply about our patients and their families. We are not afraid to fight with the system on their behalf. Nurse Practitioners practice with integrity and have earned the respect and trust of their patients, and the community. And I am proud to have been a nurse for the past 39 years and a PNP for the past 23 years.