Advancing the art of nursing

New acute care nursing program may improve health of Florida children

 By Emily Miller

The College of Nursing has established a first-in-Florida clinical track geared toward training pediatric nurse practitioners to work in acute care settings. The program will welcome its inaugural class during the spring semester.

“We have had a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program here at the University of Florida for years, but it’s been basically primary-care-oriented, and there is a world of difference between primary care and the critical care nursing seen at settings such as Shands,” said Rose Nealis, Ph.D., A.R.N.P.

Trauma continues to be the leading cause of injury and death among children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatric acute care nurse practitioners meet the specialized physiological and psychological needs of children with complex acute and chronic health conditions. They respond to rapidly changing clinical conditions, including the recognition and management of emerging health crises, organ dysfunction and failure.

The college created the track in response to both a demand from students and a local and national need, said Nealis, the clinic track coordinator for the college’s primary and acute care pediatric programs.

“We have some graduate students who really want to work in advanced practice in a hospital or other acute care settings,” she said. “The program makes them eligible for certification as a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner, and it gives them the education needed to practice.”

Charlene Leonard, A.R.N.P., a pediatric critical care nurse practitioner at Shands Hospital for Children, said the program will improve the care provided to children in Florida because those wishing to be pediatric acute care nurse practitioners will no longer have to move out of Florida for education.

“It’s a major step forward in the health care of children in the state of Florida,” she said.

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