Photo by Susan Urmy

Partnerships in care for newborns

Published on March 2nd, 2020 by Christina Echegaray.

Claire Slone, MSN, APRN, NNP-BC, has the best of both worlds with her job as a neonatal nurse practitioner for the Division of Outreach Medicine at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. 

A few days a month she keeps her skills sharp tending to high-risk patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital. “These babies are the sickest of the sick, the smallest of the small,” she said.

The rest of the time she works at Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tennessee, caring for high-risk newborns, attending high-risk deliveries, consulting with the local pediatric practice, and, intermittently, working with two other community hospital nurseries who have a partnership with VUMC. 

Slone, who lives in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, works several days a month from 8 a.m. until noon at Sumner Regional, seeing a caseload of newborn high-risk babies in the nursery. She and the other nurse practitioners and newborn hospitalists also share on-call duties and are available to see high-risk babies delivered by obstetricians 24/7. She lives about 35 minutes from Sumner Regional. 

The arrangement works out well for the families who deliver their babies at Sumner Regional. In the past, many babies who had IVs or needed oxygen would have been sent to Vanderbilt for more nuanced care. Now, under the expert supervision of the Outreach Medicine Team, they can stay closer to home.

Slone says, “It’s great for the families and the community.  Any time a family has a sick baby, regardless of how minor the issue is, it’s very stressful and traumatic for them. It’s an added stress when the family is informed that their baby is being transferred (to Vanderbilt) via ambulance. The parents are then faced with driving to and from Nashville just to see their child and that’s really difficult. I’m glad we can keep babies close to home in their own communities.”

The arrangement also has its perks for Slone, the mother of three children — an 11-year-old daughter and twin boys, 8. 

“I’m able to be around a lot more,” she said. “My father had cancer and passed away over the summer. For the year he was ill, I was able to work in an on-call fashion and also have family time, versus being in Nashville at Children’s Hospital where I would physically have to remain in the hospital during my shift.

“It works out well for my family. I’m at home cooking dinner and helping with homework. My husband also works from home, so if I am called in, I can immediately walk out the door and head back to the hospital,” she said. 

During a recent on-call day, Slone went to her children’s school and helped administer the flu vaccine, then was home with them after school with her phone by her side at all times, waiting for a call that might come from Sumner Regional.

Slone started her career at Vanderbilt as a nurse in 1995. After earning her nurse practitioner degree and moving out of town for a short time, she’s been back at Vanderbilt since 2002.

She also takes call a few days a month for high-risk babies born at Vanderbilt Wilson County’s nursery in Lebanon, Tennessee, just minutes away from her home. Vanderbilt now also has a partnership with NorthCrest Hospital in Springfield, Tennessee, where a member from the Outreach Medicine Team will be in-house 24/7 for nursery and delivery coverage.

Slone and the Outreach Medicine Team of neonatal nurse practitioners and newborn hospitalists are credentialed at all three hospitals: Sumner Regional, Vanderbilt Wilson County and NorthCrest, to allow flexibility for the team in case someone is on vacation or has a family emergency.

 “This arrangement is an example of how Vanderbilt is morphing to meet the needs in our communities by partnering with community hospitals and local pediatricians who want more time to see patients in their offices. It looks very different today for pediatric practices in communities than it did even 10 years ago. I’m glad we can help meet this need,” Slone said.

– by Nancy Humphrey