Last week, I had the wonderful pleasure of going to Chicago to attend the 39th Annual National Conference on Pediatric Health held by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP). The NAPNAP conference was truly excellent, and Chicago is such a lovable city!

Being the Irish girl I am, I couldn’t resist going a few days early to attend St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in one of my favorite cities. Spending St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago and watching the river famously turn green did not disappoint!

There was a record amount of attendees at this year’s NAPNAP conference. Over 1,800 pediatric nurse practitioners and pediatric providers attended this event! That’s right, the conference hall was filled with fellow KidNurses! Children’s health was clearly the passion of every attendee’s heart, and that passion is always contagious. NAPNAP has local chapters all over the United States, and I’m honored to serve as the President-Elect of our local Arizona NAPNAP Chapter.

Dani Stringer at NAPNAP Conference

5 Things I Learned at the NAPNAP Conference

After four days packed with pediatric sessions and evidence-based practice updates, here are my top five take-aways from this year’s national NAPNAP conference that will interest pediatric providers and parents alike.

1. Choosing pediatric providers to take care of your children is very important for their health outcomes.

Children receive recommended pediatric care only 46% of the time in outpatient settings (primary care offices, urgent cares, etc). You can read the full study here, and I’d encourage both health care providers and parents to do so. The results of this review of over 1,500 children’s medical charts is both interesting and highly concerning. We have to do better for our children. Less than half of them are getting the appropriate care that they need.

I believe a huge part of the problem is many children are being cared for by general family or adult providers. Just because it seems like there is a family practice, urgent care or MinuteClinic on most corners in America, it doesn’t mean that the medical providers running these clinics are up-to-date on the latest guidelines for pediatric care. Children are not small adults. They need specific pediatric care. While I partner with excellent family and adult providers all the time in transitioning adolescents into their care, I recommend that parents always choose pediatric providers to care for their children.

Courtney Catalano and Dani Stringer at NAPNAP Conference

Courtney Catalano, CPNP, and Dani

2. Too many children are unnecessarily going to the ER.

This was not super surprising to me, but the statistics on this topic sure are. There has been a 600% increase in ER visits in the last half of the 20th century. Yikes! Even worse, 55-85% of ER visits by children are for non-urgent care, mostly cold symptoms and fever. We need to be providing more accessible care at the primary care/out-patient level to avoid all these unnecessary ER visits. These ER visits are exposing our children to unnecessary germs and frequently delaying care for the truly sick children who need it most. Furthermore, I believe many parents take their children to the ER simply because they aren’t sure what to do.

We need to improve the health education we give to parents. That’s just another reason why I’m such a big believer in the KidNurse Community. In this community, our team of KidNurses educate parents on the symptoms and situations that require immediate care or not. The more we do this, the more unnecessary ER visits we can avoid.

Pornography harms in three ways | NAPNAP Conference 2018

3. Pornography is harming children.

The research on the harmful effects of pornography is undeniable. Gone are the days where choosing to avoid pornography was simply a moral preference. The massive amount of data shows that pornography is devastatingly changing children’s brains. In a compelling keynote speech the co-founder of Fight the New Drug, Clay Olsen, presented on the neurological changes that take place in a child’s brain with continued viewing of pornography.

Pornography is hurting our children’s minds, hearts, and world. I’ve followed Fight the New Drug for years, and I’d highly encourage you to go read through the research on pornography with your teenager here. Unfortunately, with today’s technology, all children will be exposed or given opportunities to view pornography. We have to be prepared with real facts to back up why we should teach our children to say no.

4. Telehealth visits are gaining momentum.

You all know how much I love health care innovation, especially in terms of improving pediatric care. Telehealth is projected to to increase to approximately 20% of all visits by 2020. I believe this will improve access to health care and affordable health care in ways we’ve never seen before, and I’m thrilled to see this innovative area of healthcare on the rise. I know kids (and their parents!) will benefit from telehealth services.

Dani Stringer and Jessica Peck at NAPNAP Conference

Dani and Dr. Jessica Peck, DNP, APRN

5. Advocacy among pediatric nurse practitioners is so important.

I’m so proud to be part of a national organization of over 9,000 pediatric nurse practitioners and pediatric providers advocating for children’s health. This past year, our organization launched NAPNAP Partners for Vulnerable Youth to advocate for ending human trafficking. At the conference, we heard from Holly Gibbs, survivor of childhood sex trafficking on how pediatric nurse practitioners can be on the frontlines of identifying and protecting child victims.

In an incredible vote, the Senate passed SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) last week, which has already resulted in Craigslist taking down their “personal” ads section, where traffickers would regularly sell children. This is a huge win for children, and I’m glad to be involved in an organization that has been so involved in advocating for vulnerable children across our nation.

Patsy Stinchfield NAPNAP Conference

Furthermore, our closing keynote speaker, Patsy Stinchfield, MS, CPNP, CIC,  inspired everyone on how NPs can lead. Patsy led Children’s Minnesota Hospital through the largest outbreak of measles last year. 74 children were infected with measles, directly as a result of not vaccinating and low-herd immunity. Patsy’s leadership was a powerful testimony of the huge impact pediatric nurse practitioners have on children’s health and wellbeing.

Advocacy, both for children and our profession, is very important and impactful. This conference was a great reflections of pediatric nurse practitioners from all over the country leading the way for children’s health.

Are you a pediatric nurse practitioner?

Don’t worry if you missed this year’s conference! I’m helping NAPNAP plan a pediatric conference in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona this Novemberer 3-4th! I’d love for you to join me! Also, the next national NAPNAP conference will be in New Orleans, March 7th-10th, 2019. Don’t miss it!

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