Member Spotlight

Erika Baker, DNP, APRN, CPNP
Children’s swim instructor and children’s hospital volunteer were my first jobs and I’ve always loved science and health. It makes sense that I eventually became a pediatric nurse. My nursing career began in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at a children’s hospital. After a few years in the PICU, I completed specialized training to care for pediatric cardiac surgery patients. This was one of my most challenging roles, but also my favorite role as a nurse! In addition, I worked as a nurse in a Level III NICU which provided a whole new set of skills and broadened my knowledge base.

Working as an ICU nurse enhanced my critical thinking skills and judgment and I felt the need to advance my education and training. I completed the MSN program at the University of Florida in 2013 and became a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. For two years, I worked in pediatric primary care clinics which was an incredible experience. Although quite different from the ICU setting, it was certainly not easier. Caring for children from birth through college age and recognizing the anomalous in a sea of normal proved to be quite the challenge. 

In my current position, I cover newborn nursery, and this was an easy transition as newborns were always a favorite of mine in primary care. I am now in a teaching hospital where I work very closely with pediatric residents and students from various disciplines. Our facility cares for an underserved population in an urban setting and we manage a range of newborn conditions in the nursery. We make every effort to keep newborns with their mothers whenever safe to do so. In our nursery, we manage phototherapy, IV antibiotics, hypoglycemia, NAS for the first 2-3 days, and infectious diseases such as HIV.

My most recent accomplishment is earning my clinical doctoral degree (DNP) from the University of Florida in May 2019. The most rewarding part about my doctoral degree was completion of a research project.  My project evaluated a neonatal transition bed to decrease NICU admissions of newborns who are experiencing a prolonged transition process. My project showed that the neonatal transition bed is safe and reduces costs. The results revealed that over a one-year period, 76% of newborns were returned to their mothers. These results were excellent, and I am hoping to disseminate my research so that other institutions may decrease unnecessary NICU admissions as well.

Outside of newborns, my passions include traveling the world with my husband, exercise, outdoor activities, yoga, meditation, and reading. I am fortunate to be a member of a national organization with a wide variety of special interest groups. It has been great having a national network of colleagues to turn to for insight and professional advice. The Newborn Special Interest Group is an active and supportive group and I look forward to being involved in its continued growth.

Sarah A. Stilling, MSN, RN, CPNP-AC/PC, IBCLC
Sarah_Stilling.jpgThere was never any question in my mind that my career would involve working with children—it was merely a question of what capacity it would be in. The end goal of working in pediatric medicine was a decision I made when I was fifteen years old. At the time I was living in Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. Community involvement and service was a pillar in the international school I attended and one of the places I spent time was an AIDS Orphanage run Mother Theresa’s Kumasi Sisters of Charity. We helped by holding, rocking and playing with orphan children. The kids were there because their parents were deceased from AIDS and they, too, were HIV positive. The sisters relied on us to help provide the most important therapy these kids needed – love, touch and human contact. During my time there I experienced the loss of children that we helped care for and with it a distinct sense of helplessness. Medicine was my answer.

My journey to into the nursing profession was a bit meandering at the start, but ultimately I earned my BSN from the University of Virginia in 2005 and went into pediatric hematology/oncology as a new graduate nurse.  In 2010 I graduated from the Catholic University of America with my dual pediatric primary and acute care degrees. I went into graduate school in pursuit of my primary care degree and during my second semester in a stroke of sheer luck they introduced the acute care degree and I was offered automatic entry to the program – so I took advantage of the opportunity. My first seven years a PNP were spent in the primary care world as I felt compelled to learn what “normal” children looked like (pediatric oncology work has a tendency to convince you that all lymph nodes mean cancer and all leg pain is osteosarcoma).  During my primary care stint I also obtained my International Board Certified Lactation Consultant certification.

  In 2016 I was offered an opportunity I couldn’t pass up – to return to my hospital roots and function in a newly created position as a PNP Pediatric Hospitalist. Leaving sports forms and constipation visits behind, I stepped into a position that was defined and created as we went along. Currently, I function as an attending hospitalist in a community hospital in the suburbs of northern Virginia. My position includes attending high risk deliveries, transitioning babies in the NICU, well baby nursery care, inpatient pediatrics and pediatric ER consults. It’s pediatric hospital potpourri. Some things have been easy, some have been hard. I am lucky enough to have a supportive team that is willing to think outside the box. The job role continues to be redefined and a work in progress but is something I love. I am also looking forward to returning to school for by doctorate at some point.

The Newborn Nursery Special Interest Group was just coming together when I changed position and I am proud to say that I was a “founding” member (at least one of the original number needed to establish the SIG). I love the information sharing within our SIG, the opportunity to compare and contrast how our facilities work and to examine a variety of protocols. I am also currently serving at the Richmond/Northern Virginia President for NAPNAP.

My time away from work is spent with my husband, my 6-year-old son, my 3-year-old daughter and our miniature schnauzer Tinker Belle (yes, she is the original baby). We love to bike, build, destroy, create and travel.