Dr. Scharmaine Lawson-Baker
Nurse Practitioner (DNP), Businesswoman, Entrepreneur, Author
Taken from the New Orleans People Project 2013
At 4 months old, my 60 year-old paternal grandmother adopted me. I never met my dad. He was in and out of jail. My mother was around. Let’s just leave that alone for now.
Born in a Yellow cab, right outside of Charity Hospital in New Orleans, I was anxious to be alive. I lived my formative days and all of my high school years between the Calliope and Magnolia housing projects, but that was not me. I was obsessed with academics, music, science, and doggedly passionate about getting granny and me out of the projects forever. Then, things began to slowly and purposely become positive. It was almost like magic.
I graduated from Dillard University with a bachelor of science in nursing and I passed the nursing boards. This was it. It was finally our ticket out of the projects and Louisiana. I took a travel nursing assignment on the East Coast and granny and I moved, purchased a home and remained there until she died, six years later.
After her death, I decided to become a nurse practitioner (NP). I wanted more autonomy and the ability to care for the “whole” patient by assessing, diagnosing, and prescribing medications. The holistic approach to patient care is what drew me to becoming an NP instead of pursuing medical school.
In 2000, after finishing my masters in nursing and becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP), I decided to return home to NOLA because I missed her so much. If you’re from NOLA, you know what I mean and that song is now playing in your head.
In 2004, I was approached to begin visiting patients in their homes who did not have a PCP (primary care provider). I only started with approximately 15, but within three months, I had 100 patients who were all homebound, elderly, and disabled. I distinctly remembered how hard it was to get a healthcare provider (NP or MD) to visit granny when she was ill. With this acute memory, I officially launched my housecall business in 2005, a few months before Hurricane Katrina. Advanced Clinical Consultants was the first NP-owned housecall practice in the state of Louisiana.
I evacuated for Katrina, but returned right away to start visiting any and all patients that I could find. I was running on pure adrenalin seeing 15-20 patients a day in abandoned homes and on desolate roads, but I had to help MY people. It was all I could do. After all, where else would they go?
The hospitals were scrambling and all medical records were lost. I was here and I had everything I needed because I was an early adopter of electronic records. I had all of the necessary data on my PDA and I hit the ground in October of 2005 quickly swelling my patient roster to greater than 500 patients in 3 months, but I was angry. I was angry at the slow process for health and aide to my community.
So, I began lamenting and telling everyone about the deplorable health conditions at NOLA Ground Zero. My hard work and loud mouth paid off because Katie Couric came down to do some house calls with me. My story was featured on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. The Washington Post, Forbes, and countless other media outlets listened and reported on my practice and the state of healthcare here in NOLA. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I felt like I was a voice for the vulnerable and forgotten. This gave me peace.
In 2008, I finished with my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). It’s the highest level possible for a NP to attain. I also developed The Housecall Course. It’s a course designed to assist other nurse practitioners on how to start and maintain a housecall practice in their state. It’s the only one of its kind in the nation. To date, I’ve trained greater than 60 nurses from across America. This was also the year I received the Entrepreneur of the Year award from ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioner magazine, which features me on its cover.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) inducted me as a fellow in 2010. There were only 43 highly successful nurse practitioners selected from across America. My most recent award was the 2013 New Orleans City Business magazine Healthcare Hero award. I was also recently profiled on WGNO “News with a Twist,” where they were highlighting inventive ways for healthcare delivery.
Out of all the achievements, media opportunities, and accolades, my most important accomplishment is becoming a foster mother.
At the end of the day, I love what I do and I’m continually striving to be a better person, friend, wife, and mother.
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed advanced education (a minimum of a master’s degree) and training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions, including chronic illnesses.
Nurse practitioners provide a broad range of health care services. They provide some of the same care provided by physicians and maintain close working relationships with physicians. A NP can serve as a patient’s regular primary care provider (PCP). Nurse practitioners see patients of all ages.
The core philosophy of the field is individualized care. Nurse practitioners focus on patients’ conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of the patients and their families. NPs make prevention, wellness, and patient education priorities. This can mean fewer prescriptions and less expensive treatments. If prescriptions are needed, NPs in most states are able to prescribe most medications as well as narcotics.
Informing patients about their health care and encouraging them to participate in decisions are central to the care provided by NPs. In addition to health care services, NPs conduct research and are often active in patient advocacy activities. (Source: www.womenshealthchannel.com)