For 23 years, UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center nurse practitioner Jo Ann Wagner Novak, RN, MSN, has cared for thousands of patients at the clinic.
But an equally important part of her work happens outside the clinic: with schools, public health organizations, nursing homes and advocacy groups.
Her focus on population health and community engagement dovetails with her training as a nurse—and with the outlook of her faculty colleagues at Northeast.
Collaborations for Adolescent Health
Wagner Novak has a special focus on two populations—children and adolescents, and the elderly in nursing homes—and has refined her work to meet their needs.
For example, she’s developed expertise on asthma, a disease that affects many of her patients. “If you’re working with a population that includes children, young adults and people of color, you have to learn a lot about the disease,” she explained. “And a big part of it is teaching people how to manage their disease.”
A member of the Wisconsin (and Dane County) Asthma Coalition, Wagner Novak has also participated in clinical care committees focused on asthma screening tools, best practices for disease control, and techniques for patient self-management.
Children and adolescent patients at Northeast also benefit from her close connections with school and public health nurses.
She works on a case-by-case basis with those community partners to provide resources for patients on sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and food and nutrition services.
Meeting Geriatric Patients Where They Live
For geriatric patients, Wagner Novak accompanies Northeast residents on nursing home teaching rounds, showing them a healthcare setting that’s very different from the hospital or outpatient clinic.
“It’s important when you work with geriatric patients that you see them in their own environment, and the environment in a nursing home is completely different,” she said. “It really changes how you practice and how you help patients when you see how they live.”
The rounds are valuable for patients, who frequently lack transportation to clinic visits, and for residents, who learn the challenges of caring for this particularly fragile population.
‘This is Our Community’
Wagner Novak says that a community focus is part and parcel of being a nurse, but having faculty around her who share that commitment makes it even better.
“The reason I like where I am is that I like helping the community I’m in,” she said. “And what I like best about this clinic is that the faculty I work with are open-minded, flexible, and very community minded.”
“From the get-go, it’s been ‘this is our community.’ ”
Published: April 2014