Three Cheers for Nurse Practitioners

November 12 - 18, 2017, was National Nurse Practitioner Week. Nurse practitioners offer a unique combination of nursing and health care service to patients, and focus not only on diagnosing and managing acute and chronic illnesses, but also on health promotion, disease prevention, counseling and patient education to help patients understand their complete health picture.

There are approximately 234,000 nurse practitioners in the United States, along with 23,000 nurse practitioner program graduates each year. Identified as Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) or Advance Practice Providers (APPs), Nurse Practitioners are Doctoral Prepared or Master Prepared Registered Nurses with specialties from pediatrics to gerontology including emergency, midwifery, mental health and acute care.

In celebration of Nurse Practitioner Week, and especially of the approximately 150 nurse practitioners in the UC San Diego health system, we want to honor and recognize the integral role nurse practitioners play in the management of safe, effective patient-centered care in San Diego within its clinics and hospital setting.

Here we profile four UC San Diego NP stars, including two from our partner departments of Medicine and Orthopedics.

Samantha Gambles Farr MSN, NP-C, CCRN, RNFA, DNP-student is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a career in nursing spanning nearly 20 years. She  works as the Surgical Intensive Care Nurse Practitioner in the Division of Trauma, Burns, Surgical Critical Care and Acute Care Surgery. She is also a Registered Nurse First Assist and travels internationally on mission trips. 

"The workflow of the ICU includes resident, fellows and attending physicians rotating on/off service weekly and monthly. Nurses are critical for ensuring continuity of care for patients, providing quality care, and bridging the gap between patients and their medical teams. Sometimes patients come in alone, without friends. Their relatives may live far away. I rememeber an experience when my entire team--the entire team--sat with a patient who was compassionately extubated because of his wishes. We held his hand until the very end. Humanity and compassionate care doesn’t only exist when a life is saved." 

In an effort to further her education, Samantha recently began her journey to obtain a Doctorate of Nursing Practice with post Masters Adult Gerontology- Acute Care Specialty from the University of Arizona. Upon graduation in 2018, she will become a double board certified, doctoral prepared Nurse Practitioner. Samantha is active in the California Association for Nurse Practitioners, San Diego North County Chapter (Treasurer); a Member-at-Large for the Society of Critical Care Medicine Nurse Steering Committee; the San Diego Black Nurses Association; and the North County African American Women’s Association. She received the North County NAACP Woman of Distinction Award for community service for 2017.

Debbie A Soldano RN, MSN, FNP-BC, OCN is a Nurse Practitioner in the Division of Surgical Oncology, where she has worked for 11 years. Soldano trained at the University of Cincinnati and Georgetown University.

“I’ve worked with Dr. Lowy in Surgical Oncology for 20 years. I am responsible for providing our patients the help and education they need to understand their diagnosis and why we recommend the treatments we do. I help them navigate the system and stand by them along the way.  My role in our practice also allows Dr. Lowy to concentrate on his many responsibilities—surgery, running his lab, collaborating and meeting with other researchers to find better treatments, speaking at conferences, and educating future providers.

I love my job because I love the people I take care of. In the world we live in today, we need each other. People with cancer need help and they need hope that, at least for today, they are going to be ok. They need practical help from day to day too. If the least I can do is return a phone call or answer a question, then I am happy to be able to help in that way.When we care about others, are there for them, listen to them and participate in their life, wonderful blessings come. I am honored to be in a position to be able to do that.” 

Debbie won the first inaugural New York Times Tribute to Nurses Award and the first annual Stewardship Award at UC San Diego. She belongs to the Oncology Nursing Society and is active in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in honor of her patients, as well as her sister, who have died of pancreatic cancer.

Archana Ajmera, ANP-BC, AOCNP is a Nurse Practitioner in the Department of Medicine. She recently joined UC San Diego from UCSF.

“I work in Moores Cancer Center with medical oncologists who specialize in Genitourinary (GU) malignancies. Most of my time is spent in the outpatient clinic, helping to care for patients from the time of diagnosis throughout the course of their treatment. I am also involved in the clinical research program as a sub-investigator and hoping to expand my role in this space.

My career as a Nurse Practitioner has been particularly gratifying because I have worked alongside several brilliant oncologists who have challenged and encouraged me to work to my fullest potential. Most importantly, I have had the honor of being a part of the most critical moments in the lives of patients. Every day I am humbled as I think about my experiences in caring for the new mother who found a lump while breastfeeding; getting a copy of Star Wars before it was released for a dying young man; or providing hospice care for an older woman who died with loved ones beside her. I appreciate and value each of these experiences and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the lives of my patients.”

Tara Kelly, DNP, ANP-BC is a Nurse Practitioner in the Department of Orthopaedic surgery practicing general non-operative orthopaedics in the outpatient clinic. She studied at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at the University of Maryland.

“For the past three years I’ve worked in the UC San Diego department of orthopaedic surgery practicing general non-operative orthopaedics in the outpatient clinic. I care for patients with musculoskeletal concerns that are referred to UC San Diego by community primary care providers. If they need surgery I refer them to the appropriate surgical team. If they need non-operative care I communicate with their primary care provider to help manage their treatment.

My role is important because I have the time to educate patients on their condition, review imaging and dialogistic studies, discuss treatment options and answer their questions. I am also proud that UC San Diego has medical Spanish interpreters on staff—not offered at all provider offices in San Diego.

I am also involved with our Clinical Practice Committee. We develop and update protocols to improve patient and provider experiences in our department. At the institutional level, I am a chair of the Advanced Practice Council, a shared governance committee that supports the practice of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists. On the state and national level, I am active with the California Association for Nurse Practitioners on the Health Policy and Practice Committee and a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Working as a nurse practitioner brings many opportunities as an educator. At UC San Diego, I participate in medical student, resident and nursing education. This fall I also started a faculty role at University of San Diego in their nurse practitioner program. I love my job as a nurse practitioner because I partner with patients and my team to treat orthopaedic conditions with an emphasis on patients’ overall health and well being.”