School of Nursing teacher soon to begin national post

By Holly Renner

Donna LoSasso, assistant professor at Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing, was elected this summer as a national council member for the National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners. She will assume her two-year position this October.

“I am very honored. I didn’t expect that I would be elected because I was running against somebody who was well-known in the profession,” LoSasso said Monday. “What was amazing to me was that it was a nationwide election — I still feel like I was a little dot on the map.”

The association makes key decisions in making new policies for neonatal nurse practitioners. LoSasso said the association has been focusing on the absence of advance practice nurses and physicians in various counties.

The nationwide election is composed of seven districts and there is one person elected from each district. Members of the association elected LoSasso for her district.

LoSasso received her doctorate this spring from Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Four weeks ago, she became an assistant professor at the School of Nursing in Dallas, where she teaches undergraduate Nursing Research, a variety of courses in neonatal practice, and graduate Embryology and Developmental Physiology.

LoSasso said she holds a unique position because she is able to address important issues from a practical and educational standpoint.

Lorie Spies, lecturer at Louise Herrington School of Nursing and missions coordinator for Global Outreach, said LoSasso is energetic and full of great ideas.

“It’s always great when the best and brightest are out there on these boards,” she said. “It’s a great thing for Donna, it’s a great thing for neonatal nurse practitioners and it’s a great thing for Baylor.”

Cheryl Riley, lecturer at the School of Nursing and the neonatal nurse practitioner coordinator, said LoSasso is a rising star.

“She’s professional — if she says she’s going to have it done on Monday, it’s done on Monday,” Riley said. “She is somebody you can count on. She has a very strong work ethic.”

With increased responsibilities, LoSasso acknowledged the hard work and commitment awaiting her.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s a really exciting time,” she said. “We are all uniting and moving forward together.”

Dr. Leslie Payne, assistant professor at the School of Nursing, said LoSasso is going to have an opportunity to shape the Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners since health care is undergoing change. “We have 23 counties in Texas without any medical provider — no nurse practitioner, no physician, nobody,” LoSasso said.

Another large task for the association is neutralizing the ways in which practitioners are allowed to practice. In Washington, for example, nurse practitioners exercise independent practice authority, where orders can be written without doctors’ consent, LoSasso said. In other states, such as Texas, that is not the case. Because every citizen is required to have health care insurance, there are not enough doctors to take care of patients because nurse practitioners cannot practice without being overseen by a doctor, LoSasso said. She said it would take at least a decade to see a change in this area.

“We are fighting even on a state level because we don’t have that independent prescriptive authority,” she said.

Nurse practitioners do not have authorization to write orders for patients without a doctor’s consent. In 2005, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing issued a statement saying nurse practitioners can no longer earn a master’s degree, LoSasso said.

A master’s degree is no longer available in Baylor’s Nurse Midwifery program, so nursing students can earn only a doctorate degree once they obtain a bachelor’s degree, LoSasso said.

Master’s degrees in the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and Family Nurse Practitioner programs will be replaced with doctoral programs in 2014.

In addition to degree changes, the National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners is looking into problems arising from neonatal nurse practitioner’s shift hours with regard to fatigue and patient safety, LoSasso said. The model throughout the United States requires 24-hour work shifts for nurse practitioners, a change that occurred in February.

The School of Nursing is undergoing educational changes as well. Nursing practitioner students in various fields of practice will be required to take the same prerequisites, LoSasso said.

“We have transformed this education to be more uniform across the board about the disciplines we teach in,” she said. Practitioners of any kind have to take the “Three P’s” — Physiology, Pharmacology and Physical Assessment courses.

LoSasso said she would like to see a stronger focus placed on educating the primal role in the neonatal unit, which is making sure infants are well taken care of when they go home.

“One of the tough things is to look at the competencies we have for certification for neonatal nurse practitioners, and what needs to be done differently so we are really addressing that primary care patient,” LoSasso said. With substantial work ahead of the association, LoSasso said she is confident they are moving forward as a unified advance nursing profession.