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Transforming Family Practice: One Nurse's Story

Nurse taking notes on a clipboard

[caption id="attachment_47223" align="alignright" width="300"]Scharmaine Lawson-Baker, RN Scharmaine Lawson-Baker, RN[/caption]

Profile: Scharmaine Lawson-Baker, DNP, FNP-BC, RN, FAANP

Early on Scharmaine Lawson-Baker, DNP, FNP-BC, RN, FAANP, knew she was a survivor. Living in New Orleans with her 80-year-old grandmother who raised her, she passed the nursing comprehensive exams and the NCLEX on the first try, despite personal challenges. "I realized I possessed great strength and power, and a force was brewing in me that would serve me well during my life," she said. After graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C., with her grandmother, to work as a travel nurse. They later settled in Nashville, Tenn., where Lawson-Baker found a job working in level 1 trauma at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "I thought I wanted to be a CRNA, because I loved the action and adrenaline rush of the ICU," she said. "But when someone suggested I consider the NP role, I knew I had to dig deep in my soul and decide where I wanted to head in my career." Lawson-Baker realized she wanted freedom to move from home to home and clinic to clinic and loved exploring new environments. She pursued the FNP track and earned a master's degree at Tennessee State University, Nashville, with a full-tuition grant. "When I graduated with honors, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. Little did I know how many doors would be open to me," she said. Lawson-Baker has been president and CEO of Advanced Clinical Consultants, LLC, in New Orleans, the first NP-owned house call practice in Louisiana, for the past 12 years. "I see 15 to 25 clients a day at local assisted living facilities, and it's so rewarding and fulfilling," she said. In one location, Lawson-Baker has a clinic within the memory care unit where most residents see her. For those who can't get there, she makes house calls. She also runs a family practice clinic, where patients receive primary care. She provides chronic care management, sports physicals, Pap smears and acute care for conditions such as coughs, colds and allergies. "Because I frequently monitor my patients' blood sugar levels, vital signs, medication efficacy and wounds, I am able to keep 90% of my patients out of the hospital," she said. Caring for patients holistically is crucial, so Lawson-Baker also encourages meditation, yoga, the use of health iPhone apps and other alternative therapies. With her innovative approach to primary care, Lawson-Baker was able to help those in need after Hurricane Katrina, visiting several thousand homes in New Orleans. "EDs were filled to capacity, and my services were sorely needed," she said. "I performed physical exams, refilled medications, reviewed lab reports and determined those who needed ED visits and those who could stay home." Lawson-Baker has advanced the APN role in another special way. When building her baby daughter's library, she looked for children's books about APNs. She came up empty handed, but was ready for the challenge. Lawson-Baker loves writing poetry and short stories so she developed a fictional character called Nola the Nurse, a 7-year-old who wants to be an NP like her mother. She makes house calls on her bike to care for her friends' sick baby dolls because she has seen her mother do the same thing. In the series, she also learns about different cultural backgrounds, visiting friends from Kenya, Mexico, India and Japan. The first book was released in May 2015, and a third book was published last month. Lawson-Baker shares words of wisdom for those who are thinking about becoming an FNP. "Don't let fear paralyze you," she said. "Keep going and push through even though you may have financial or other burdens. You are smart enough and you are not too old. Yes, it's harder than earning the BSN degree, but it is achievable. Try to cut back on work while you are in school. Many will try to discourage you; ignore them. It will be the best decision you have ever made."