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Celebrating NP Week 2023: Jenna Gonillo-Davis

  By Gianluca D'Elia
  Friday, November 10, 2023

Almost 60 years ago, the University of Rochester School of Nursing's founding dean Loretta Ford and pediatrician Henry Silver pioneered the nurse practitioner role. There are now more than 355,000 NPs improving the health and lives of millions of patients across the U.S. In honor of Nurse Practitioner Week 2023, the University of Rochester School of Nursing is sharing stories of alumni of its nurse practitioner programs.

Becoming an NP helped Jenna Gonillo Davis '10N, '15N (MS) discover numerous opportunities across patient care, research, and nursing education that she hadn't previously imagined.

Gonillo Davis earned her master's in the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care specialty, and found her niche in neurocritical care, focusing on patients with traumatic brain injuries both at the bedside and as an investigator for ongoing research. She is currently a nurse practitioner in the Neuromedicine Intensive Care Unit at University of Rochester Medical Center.

Why did you pursue an NP degree?

I remember completing my accelerated bachelor’s program interview with Leann Patel on the beach near my undergraduate campus and telling her how I aspired to work as a bilingual FNP in an underserved community. I’m nowhere close to being bilingual, but patient advocacy has been a core value of my practice. I took time to start my nursing career, figure out what I enjoyed, and let my mentor guide me into critical care. She knew what I was capable of before I did!

Where did you complete your clinical preceptor experience?

Strong Memorial Hospital (Hospital Medicine and Surgical ICU), Unity Hospital (ICU), MCC/Batavia (Outpatient Nephrology) 

What makes you passionate about the specialty area you work in?

After a few years in med-surg, I transitioned into critical care in the Burn/Trauma ICU at Strong. I liked the pace, burn care, and caring for patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Caring for a patient with a TBI is a labor of love, but the reward of walking with them for the first time is like nothing else. I stretched myself for my first NP position and learned so much in the medical ICU thanks to fantastic preceptors, such as Brett Hogan, Ida Earner, Kristine Ferrin and Patti Lavinge. After a few years I was ready to join the Neuro ICU and take care of my people again.  Neurocritical care, compared to pulmonary and critical care medicine, is in its infancy – there’s so much we don’t know. Our community is small, so it’s a great opportunity for nurses and advanced practice providers (APPS) to participate in meaningful projects and research to improve patient outcomes.

During my service on the Advanced Practice Provider Leadership Committee for the Neurocritical Care Society, we published a series of APP-focused podcasts, updated the APP Orientation Course, and created four Pre-Conference Workshops based on the needs of the section. I’ve also participated as a mentor and a protegee in the society’s mentorship program which not only gave me great friends, but also a wonderful network of passionate neurocritical care providers to collaborate with on projects.  

Photo of Jenna standing in the ICU, wearing a white coat and olive green scrubsTell us a little bit about your current role.

I currently work on the Neuromedicine ICU (NMICU) consult service, a subset of the NMICU. Consults for my team include encephalopathy, targeted temperature management after cardiac arrest, intracranial hypertension management, and neuroprognostication following brain injury. I am also an active local sub-investigator in two national studies funded through the SIREN clinical network. For ICECAP, which is assessing cooling duration after out of hospital cardiac arrest, I assist with patient enrollment, interdisciplinary team education, and study compliance materials. For BOOST-3, which is focused on brain tissue oxygenation and intracranial hypertension management in traumatic brain injury, I focus on nursing education and recently became our site’s outcomes assessor.  

How did your UR Nursing education prepare you for your career goals? What kind of doors do you feel it opened for you?

Dr. Beth Palermo was so thoughtful in choosing our clinical experiences. She knew what placements would be best to complement my BTICU experience, and it allowed me to see how diverse of a skillset acute care nurse practitioners truly have. That being said, I think she knew I would be a critical care NP and may have tried to nudge me that way.

Tell us about  a faculty member or preceptor who made a difference for you or shaped your educational journey.

I first met Dr. Margaret Carno during the accelerated bachelor's program when she was teaching nursing science and worked closely as a Fuld Scholar in the sleep lab. She is brilliant, kind, and an extraordinary person; the natural choice when APNN students were presented with the opportunity for small group mentoring near the end of the program. She reassured us, counseled us on career and life choices, and encouraged our work-life balance.

Our mentoring group is still “Team MC,” and we are perfectly complementary: a variety of adult, women’s health, pediatric, and specialty experiences, bound together by our belief that nursing and health care can be better for nurses and patients.

What kind of support was helpful to you as you balanced work and other life commitments with returning to school?

I had a lot of support from within my cohort, my family, and from Team MC. While finishing her DNP, Dr. Palermo told us that her oven looked so dirty she just had to clean it rather than writing her thesis – I took that advice to heart while writing my comprehensive exam and cleaned the oven, fridge, and my closet.   

How do you feel your work makes an impact in the wider community or for the population you serve?

Most of my impact is with the families, especially in the unfortunate case of a poor prognosis. Learning about the patient and their values is key in my role as “interpreter” of the neurodiagnostic testing. However, being able to preserve my patient’s dignity through honoring their preferred quality of life is rewarding. It can be emotionally difficult, especially in cases that have a lot of uncertainty, but that’s common within many fields of nursing.

What have been some of your proudest moments as a nurse?

One of our young patients early on in the pandemic reminded me why I became a nurse. Rachael came to us in super refractory status epilepticus with what we later learned to be anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. The APP group became fiercely protective of her, especially after we found out that her parents were initially only granted a one-time visit due to COVID concerns. Throughout summer 2020, we celebrated her victories and kept hope afloat when we encountered setbacks. She was finally discharged home in October 2020, just a few days before I gave birth to my son.

She is one of the most tenacious women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. She returned to Penn State classes in summer 2021 and is now a medical student, with an incredible family and primary care provider that advocated for her at every step. Rachael came “home” to shadow the NMICU team on rounds in December 2021, which was the outcome we had all worked toward. She will do great things in medicine, and I’m ready to help in any capacity. Racheal wrote a piece about her experiences for Currents, participated in an NCS podcast (see Episode 85: Perspectives – Story of Hope with Rachael Muggleton), and was featured in the URMC Newsroom.

Categories: Alumni, Nurse Practitioner Programs

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