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The New Nightingale

The image of the nurse is synonymous with hospitals and doctors’ offices. But in 2015, that sure is one old school point of view. Today’s nurses defy old stereotypes. Both male and female, many earn multiple advanced degrees, working out of uniform and beyond the bedside to all areas of health care.

Deb Ferrarello_1

Meet Debi Page Ferrarello, MSN, MS, IBCLC, RLC, director of Family Education and Lactation at Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH), whose tireless efforts recently earned the 20-plus years maternal/child health care veteran the 25th annual Nightingale Award of Pennsylvania for Community Nursing.

Like the 19th century pioneering nurse and social reformer Florence Nightingale for which the award is named after, Ferrarello helps her patients way outside of hospital walls.

Ferrarello is responsible for program development, implementation and evaluation of the hospital’s Lactation Program and Childbirth Education. She oversees Solutions for Women, the hospital’s specialty boutique located in the community, which caters to new moms and cancer survivors. She creates and facilitates interdepartmental taskforces to tackle problems and directs and innovative lactation consultation internship program. A published researcher and author, she is also the team leader for the hospital’s Baby-Friendly journey to create an optimal environment for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding.

Nightingale award

“Frankly, I was very surprised to learn that I was even considered for the position because, like all of us, I was just plugging along, doing my job and doing what I care about,” said Ferrarello. “In health care, we are honored to do work that matters…work that is meaningful and that has an impact on people’s lives for the long run. The fact that the award was for nursing care at the community level, means a lot to me because the community is where people live their lives. They come to the hospital for one just small slice of their lives. Making a difference in the community means that we make a difference in real life.”

Pamela Power, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, CENP, clinical director of Women’s Health at PAH, and the one who nominated Ferrarello for the award, wasn’t at all surprised that she received it.

“Debi is both a clinical expert in her area of practice, lactation, and an expert educator of her community,” said Power. “She understands that our community members need to be educated by using modalities that go far beyond ‘handouts’ and encourages us to seek out and use technology of the day. She truly is an expert in knowing what is available and optimizing all resources to make sure our patients receive the education they need to help them to feed their infants in the safest and healthiest way, long after they leave the hospital.”

Ferrarello, who is also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, spearheaded change processes for staff, physicians, mothers and families to provide care that promotes breastfeeding and supports breast and bottle feeding mothers, in order to create an optimal environment for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding. She also led PAH through the performance improvement odyssey that makes the hospital eligible to achieve Baby-friendly status. 

She is currently working with the women’s health team to prepare for a site visit from Baby-friendly USA so PAH can be officially accredited as a “Baby-friendly” designation – a designation held by only about 200 hospitals in the U.S. right now that indicates that the hospital has adopted “best practices” related to promoting mother/baby bonding and optimal infant feeding.

Her efforts primarily contributed to PAH being chosen as one of 90 hospitals across the country to participate in a $6 million grant to help hospitals achieve Baby Friendly status through performance improvement.

“Baby-friendly hospitals have a positive impact on their community, so this is a big deal for us and we’re really excited,” said Ferrarello.

Ferrarello is responsible for the PAH Parent Education Program that serves more than 3,000 women and their families each year with education ranging from childbirth and breastfeeding classes to Infant CPR. 

“Debi is someone who wants to improve our community by helping mothers to be the best mothers that they can be. This helps infants grow up to be healthy and well cared for and help our community to grow stronger with each generation,” said Power. “I am so grateful that our community has someone like Deb who is so skilled, so passionate, and so capable to do this noble work.”

A nationally well-regarded expert in her field, Ferrarello was called to Washington, D.C., last year by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to be part of a think tank for the Safe to Sleep campaign. The group addressed issues related to community education about safe sleep for infants for women at the community level.

“I love that my job allows me to work with a lot of different people in a lot of different ways,” said Ferrarello. “It gives me the support I need to serve on the national board of my professional association, to teach new-to-practice nurses how to support their breastfeeding patients, to offer classes that help prepare expectant parents for parenthood, and to work with colleagues across all disciplines to create a culture that helps patients to meet their goals.”

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