Education is the key to childhood asthma.
“I love working with patients and families together, we have such a broad scope of people here, patients that come from every socioeconomic background. I especially like working with families that need more education and that’s what drew me to CHP. Being able to have hands-on experience with the patients is amazing.” Gina Nickels-Nelson, DNP, FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner Gina Nickels- Nelson is passionate about her focus on caring for children with asthma. Education, she believes, is the key for both children and parents who face the challenges of living with this respiratory condition, which causes breathing difficulty. A caring and determined personality inspired her to take a teaching approach to helping families make the best and most accurate use of childhood asthma management and treatment. Her goal is to help her young patients maintain a healthy lifestyle and limit visits to the ER due to incorrect asthma management. “Being hands-on with patients is amazing” Nickels-Nelson says.
In 2010, 64,815 pediatric emergency room visits involved asthma, according to Mass Medicaid/CHIP Population data. Gina describes asthma as a “chronic longstanding illness or condition that can flare in some people weekly, but in other people it might only flare once or twice a year.” Many pediatric patients are missing school, which causes parents to miss work in order to care for their children.
Nickels-Nelson also believes that “asthma is not just a medical condition it’s also a social condition,” because, if severe, it can cause children to miss out on activities and social events. Educating patients and families can vastly improve asthma’s interference with daily activity.
With education in mind, Nickels-Nelson held a hands-on educational program to educate users of inhalers. Of the 118 individuals who participated, only 3-5 could effectively use their inhalers. At the end of the program, 115 were able to use the inhaler “beautifully”.
She shares a story of one patient that reflects how education can make a difference.
“A young lady that I was caring for was visiting the ER very frequently. She was missing school and mom was missing work. I worked with her four times, giving her the education she needed about when and how to use her inhaler. After working with her, she had not been to the ER at all. She is now able to do the sports she loves, she is able to stay in school, and mom is able to go back to work. With this problem solved, she even went to Florida for the softball world series, which she never would have considered doing because of the severity of her asthma.”
Nickels-Nelson strongly encourages patients to keep up with routine medical appointments. “Talk to us. Don’t wait until a crisis,” she says. “We want to work with you in the good times and help you through the challenges.”