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An Advanced Practice Provider (APP) story

Published on Monday July 3, 2023
Yarber, Brenda

Transforming tiny lives

Brenda Yarber’s journey to becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) at Centra didn’t begin with large ambitions for the future but rather a love for caring for the tiniest of patients. In May of 1984, Brenda graduated from the University of Lynchburg with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and the following July she began working in the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) at Centra.

During her first few years working in the ICN, Brenda took advantage of every opportunity to learn new skills and treatments that nurses were allowed to perform including intubating a baby. A few years after beginning her career as a bedside nurse, she interviewed for the position of Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) following a long twelve-hour shift only because she knew she might be interested in pursuing an advanced degree in the future. 

What Brenda didn’t anticipate was the phone call that came after the interview when members of Centra’s Women & Children’s Service Leadership Team asked if she would like to attend Georgetown University to train to become the ICN’s next NNP. Unable to say no to the opportunity, Brenda spent three months completing classroom training at Georgetown, three months in a practicum at King’s Daughters Children's Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia and finally, a three-month practicum at Centra.

After passing the board exam and officially becoming an NNP, Brenda explained that her role on the care team within the ICN changed. Instead of being the individual who recognized issues or concerns with an infant, she became the individual who was now responsible for making decisions about what method of care should be used to treat the patient.

Today, Brenda is still just as passionate about caring for the tiniest of patients as she was on her first day almost forty years ago. As an NNP in the ICN, Brenda does almost everything that the neonatologists (medical professional who specialize in caring for newborn babies, particularly those who are ill or born prematurely) do in addition to the things that they count on her for such as accurate charting and tracking data on patients. From performing physical exams of infants and rounding on the unit to attending high-risk deliveries and deciding which infants needs to be admitted to the ICN, Brenda stays quite busy.

Brenda also explained that often people think that APPs are “wannabe physicians” which is rarely the case. Rather, because they come from a different educational background, they bring a different perspective. She went on describe how, “we bring to the table perceptions and understandings that the physician may not grasp or get. It’s truly a holistic approach when you have a physician and nurse practitioner working together. It makes sure that we’re not overlooking anything. Together we utilize our strengths as one team for our babies’ care.”

Brenda is also responsible for coordinating the education related to neonatal resuscitation across our system. Any Caregiver who might end up caring for a newborn from bedside nurses to ground transport crews is eligible to complete the simulation-based training. Overseeing this program means that Brenda is responsible for ensuring that Centra’s Caregivers are trained using the most up to date guidelines as provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

The moment you begin speaking with Brenda about her work as an NNP, you will immediately notice how much she loves her job. “Sometimes the 24-hour shifts can be exhausting, but I haven’t thought about retiring yet,” she said emphatically! When asked what the most rewarding part of her job is, Brenda said seeing a difference in the wellness of a baby she’s cared for is by far the most gratifying part. Even going on to say, “I don’t need recognition; seeing the difference is enough for me.”