A pediatric nurse practitioner, Nellie K. Coughlin, MSN, APRN, PPCNP-BC, speaks about the joys of her role and her commitment to mentor the next generation of NPs. She also explains why an interprofessional team is essential to serve children with disabilities and/or medical complexity and their families.
Twenty years ago I began my nursing career as a bedside pediatric nurse. While in my undergraduate nursing program, I encountered many brilliant nurse practitioners. These NPs were my role models and they encouraged me to pursue further education as an advanced practice nurse. I took their advice and have been a pediatric nurse practitioner since 2005. As part of the University Hospitals’ Pediatric Comprehensive Care program since the program’s inception in 2011, I have been working with children with disabilities and medical complexity. One of the goals of our team is to look at the “big picture” for each child and their family. We collaborate with other specialists and try to coordinate care. We attempt to ensure that families have everything they need to care for their child so parents can focus more on being parents, and less on being medical caregivers. We also offer support for siblings of medically complex children.
The majority of our patients are non-verbal, but they all have a story to tell us. We listen to that story and see the joy these children bring to their families and communities. Our program not only thrives on interprofessional collaboration, but it is essential to our functioning. It truly takes a village to care for a medically complex child. Our team includes RN nurse coordinators, LPN patient navigators, social workers and dietitians. We work with community organizations, schools, therapy departments, transportation companies, Lyft drivers, pharmacists, home care nursing agencies, durable medical equipment companies, orthotic companies and state support programs to achieve our goals.
The work I have done thus far in my career has given me foundational leadership skills. I enjoy facing challenges head on and coming up with creative solutions. Currently I am the chair of our pediatric advanced practice nursing council. I have a strong commitment to my profession and feel teaching the next generation of pediatric nurse practitioners is vital to the sustainability and vibrancy of our profession. Precepting nurse practitioner students helps keep my enthusiasm for nursing alive and reminds me of why I wanted to work in nursing to begin with. When I see my role through my student’s eyes, it helps me see the difference we make on a daily basis. I am honored to be a nurse and to be part of the village that helps my patients with special health care needs and their families.