New Orleans - famous for Mardi Gras, beignets and a tech savvy NP post Katrina

Scharmaine Lawson-Baker how long have you been a nurse (and/or NP) and what areas of nursing did you or do you currently work in?

I have been a nurse since 1989 (I’ve stopped counting in hopes of not feeling that old!) As an RN, I worked in all departments but loved Level 1 Trauma/ER. I did most of my work as a Travel RN. I lived in DC for 6 years and Nashville for 4 years. I have been an NP since 2000. As an NP, I have worked on Mission trips, clinics, and for the last 10 years, as the owner of a Housecall practice in New Orleans. This last position has by far been the most rewarding and affords me the most autonomy.

 

Tell me your biggest pet peeves about nursing. I hate that NPs are not able to practice to their FULL SCOPE in every state. That IS my biggest peeve. It just doesn’t make sense. A lot of states are coming around, but there’s still work to do regarding educating the masses about the many wonderful things NPs can do.

What do you love most about nursing? I love being able to make a difference in someone’s life. You never know who is watching and what they’re taking note of. A lot of times you may think patients are not listening, but they are. So, it’s rewarding to lead by example and then see patients’ make healthier changes because of your modeling.

What throws you off balance and how do you know you are out of balance? I’m usually off balance when I haven’t had enough rest or when I don’t schedule down time for “me.” Everyone around me knows because I’m a little crabby.

What brings you back into balance? I literally have to schedule time off especially with the books that are out. The publishing and writing has opened other doors. Nowadays, I need to often juggle time for employee issues, interviews, family, work, and me.

Can you tell me a bit about the work you have done to improve access to care for the elderly, disabled and indigent in New Orleans? During the early days after Hurricane Katrina, the healthcare access was deplorable. I was one of a handful of providers who returned immediately in the aftermath to care for hundreds of patients. Access to healthcare was made possible via a home visit or a housecall. It’s a story that I’ve already begun to write. Today, things are better. The hospital systems are improved and they’re building a brand new hospital corridor downtown. So, there’s much improvement.

How did you go about funding and getting the technology up and running? I already had a Palm Pilot when Katrina hit. In the aftermath, I received a grant from the state that was designed to keep healthcare providers in the underserved areas. This sustained my operations for about 2 years.

Can you tell us how you came about creating Nola the nurse children’s book?  Nola stands for New Orleans. She was created out of frustration. I wanted African American books for my daughter that featured a NP or at least a nurse and I couldn’t find one. So, I created Nola the Nurse. She is a 7-year-old little girl who wants to be a nurse practitioner like her mommy. So, she visits her friends’ homes to care for their dolls. In my travels as a home health RN, and a housecall NP, I realized that every home had a culture. I wanted this to be depicted in the book. Hence, every home she visits is a friend from another culture. So, she essentially goes to fix the doll, but learns something fascinating about another culture as well. It is a series in which she visits 5 friends from 5 different cultures.

Tell me about your most favorite nursing job and why. I really loved home health. Can you tell? I knew it when I made my first visit with an armed guard in S.E. Washington, D.C. I wasn’t scared, but totally excited about providing healthcare to others who would not receive help if I hadn’t been there. It just didn’t get any better to me.

What advice would you give to new grads and nurse entrepreneurs starting out? I would say thoroughly research your niche market and don’t take out too many loans. You don’t want to get into debt before you can pay the water bill!

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