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Passionate, grateful, and busy-these 3 words describe the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) volunteer Erin Keels, APRN, NNP-BC, a member of NANN since 1994, the National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NANNP) since 2008, and the current NANN liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on the Fetus and Newborn (COFN).

Erin Keels, APRN, NN... - Click to enlarge in new windowErin Keels, APRN, NNP-BC

Erin began her nursing career as a nursing assistant at Columbus Children's Hospital, now Nationwide Children's Hospital, graduating in 1988 from Ohio State University. Mentorship and dedicated preceptors encouraged Erin to become a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP), and in 1993 she graduated from the certificate program at Columbus Children's Hospital and obtained a master's degree from Ohio State University in 2003. Erin is now the director of the NNP Program at Nationwide, a program that includes 95 NNPs, 5 pediatric nurse practitioners, and 1 physician assistant. Erin says that it is her honor to work with intelligent, dedicated, compassionate, and authentic professionals.


Erin is passionate about interprofessional team practice in the newborn intensive care unit. She is constantly impressed with the impact neonatal nurses and NNPs have on the short- and long-term outcomes of neonates in their care. The trust parents and families place in the neonatal care teams constantly humbles Erin. Families trust neonatal nurses and nurse practitioners not only to care for their baby but also to teach them to be confident and competent to care for their baby at discharge. In addition to technology challenges and the rapid changes to evidence-based practice that "keep her on her toes," Erin finds enjoyment in the camaraderie of working closely with other disciplines, noting that it helps her to learn and grow in ways she could not have predicted.


Feeling supported by mentors who encouraged her to dream and take chances, Erin feels NANN and NANNP helped her to see beyond her clinical practice group and management structure in Columbus, OH, and to learn what others are achieving or struggling with to improve outcomes for babies and their families on a larger scale.


Erin started as a volunteer working on a NANNP committee led by Carol Jaeger, MS, RN, NNP-BC, that drafted the NNP workforce position statement. She enjoyed writing this document and working with the team involved in the project. While working on advanced practice advocacy initiatives and lecturing at state and national levels about neonatal abstinence syndrome and NNP leadership, she was approached by NANN about the liaison position to the AAP, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


The COFN studies issues and current advances in fetal and neonatal care. The committee also makes recommendations regarding neonatal practice and collaborates with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to consider perinatal issues and work on new editions of ACOG's Guidelines for Perinatal Care. Liaisons to the COFN represent the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Pediatric Society, ACOG, and NANN. Erin states:


"A COFN liaison works with the committee to review, revise, and draft clinical practice policy statements; collaborate on shared topics of interest; and provide updates and reports on their respective organizations. When I joined the committee, the first thing I learned was that I needed to learn a lot more about writing at that level."


The committee members are truly collaborative and supportive, and Erin expresses her gratitude for wonderful mentors, including Dr Kristi Watterberg, COFN chair. Erin feels comfortable raising questions or concerns or ideas that impact patients, families, and NANN/NANNP membership. Her goals for her COFN liaison work include working to have provider neutral language in the policy statements when appropriate, serving as the voice of the neonatal nurse/NNP as policy statements are drafted or revised, and ensuring that NANN and AAP guidelines and policy statements are congruent and complementary with one another.


Erin shares:


"So far, during my tenure, I was able to successfully advocate for the AAP's endorsement of the NANNP Advanced Practice Registered Nurse: Role, Preparation and Scope of Practice position statement. That was a great example of cooperation and support from the AAP of NANN/NANNP. At the same time, I have been working as one of the primary authors on the revision of the Prevention and Management of Pain policy statement. As part of the review process, multiple AAP committees provided feedback on the document, which was very reaffirming and positive."


Erin also serves as the NANN liaison to the AAP Section on Perinatal Pediatrics; in this role, she attends their annual meeting and provides pertinent updates about NANN/NANNP, collaborates on projects, and provides input on topics of shared interest. "The AAP is truly interested in partnering and collaborating with NANN/NANNP to improve outcomes for babies and their families," she says.


Erin remembers how daunting it was to become involved at the national level. She believes that every nurse or NNP has something unique to offer that adds value to NANN and NANNP. Her advice is to consider working on a short-term committee or task force such as policy statement review or clinical guideline development. This helps build confidence and establish networks around the country with other members who they can collaborate with and continue to increase their involvement.


Passionate, grateful, and busy, Erin is currently working on her doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree, in addition to her liaison duties. Volunteering for NANN has provided Erin with many opportunities to have valuable mentoring relationships and professional opportunities. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses is grateful for a passionate and dedicated professional such as Erin Keels.



NANN's 31st Annual Educational Conference

Join NANN in Dallas, Thursday, October 22, through Sunday, October 25, for the 2015 Annual Educational Conference! This year's conference will be held at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. We hope to see you there!


Program information will be able soon. Visit for more information.

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