Interview with Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Practice Manager

It was destiny for me to become a NICU nurse. Working in the NICU, you not only care for an extremely premature infant who weighs less than a pound or the term infant with meconium aspiration syndrome, but you’re also taking care of that infant’s family. The trust that parent(s) give you, the role I play in empowering and teaching the parents to discover their baby’s cues and ultimately to wish them well upon discharge are all huge satisfiers as a NICU nurse.

About Jenny Quinn, RN, MSN, NNP-BC, MHA: Jenny Quinn is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Practice Manager at Northbay Healthcare, where she provides education, training, and leadership to medical staff within Northbay Healthcare’s NICU, and also collaborates with other medical professionals to improve clinical policies and procedures to optimize patient care. Prior to her role at Northbay Healthcare, Ms. Quinn was a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital, where she collaborated with a multidisciplinary team to provide medical care and support to high-risk neonates and their families. During her time at UCSF, Ms. Quinn was also a Neonatal Outreach Coordinator, a role that involved developing and implementing advanced curricula and presentations about effective neonatal care in emergency and high risk situations across over 15 different hospitals.

Ms. Quinn has over 18 years of experience in neonatal and women’s health care services, working as a Staff Nurse caring for premature and/or critically ill infants, facilitating successful birth outcomes in high risk delivery situations, and supporting patients’ families in multiple hospital settings. She was also a Captain in the US Air Force and Staff Nurse for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Travis Air Force Base for over four years. Ms. Quinn earned her MSN and Certificate in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner from the University of Missouri in Kansas City in 2007, her BSN from the University of Washington in 2002, and her Associate Degree in Nursing from Hillsborough Community College in 1997. She also holds a Master of Healthcare Administration from Kaplan University, which she earned in 2012.

Interview Questions

[] Before we launch into the main questions, may we have a brief description of your educational and professional background?

[Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC] I am passionate about life-long learning, and feel that this passion has really helped me professionally throughout my career. I graduated with my ADN in 1997 and went straight into the NICU at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida as a new graduate. In 1998, I moved to Seattle, Washington at which time I began working in a small, community level III NICU in Renton, Washington. At that time, there were no neonatologists in-house; I clearly remember within a couple of days of starting at this hospital, an unexpected delivery of a premature infant was impending and my preceptor turned to me and asked if I wanted to intubate the infant or be responsible for doing chest compressions! I elected to do chest compressions! I will always value my training and experiences I received working at this hospital, as this was the place I learned the value of teamwork, how to critically think and communicate my findings to the physician(s), and the autonomy of nursing within the scope of my practice.

Soon, I had the desire to work in an NICU that offered higher levels of acuity and for the next couple of years I worked at Seattle Children’s and Swedish Medical Center. During this time I decided to go back and get my BSN through the University of Washington. And then September 11, 2001 happened. Being the daughter of a retired air force father, I felt a “calling” and I wanted to put my nursing skills to use in the Air Force. I was commissioned into the Air Force and was stationed at Travis AFB, California from 2002-2006. As an Officer in the Air Force my primary role was as a nurse in the NICU. During my time in the Air Force, I took advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill and enrolled in an online MSN, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program through the University of Missouri-Kansas City. This was an excellent program that provided me with the necessary foundation as a NNP. The program was online which allowed me to stay where I lived and complete my clinical hours locally. After obtaining my MSN, I spent the next several years working at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and in 2012, took a position at NorthBay Medical Center as the Clinical Practice Manager/NNP for the NICU. I recently joined NorthBay Neonataology Associates and provide care and medical management to newborns. I also have a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and will begin a PhD nursing program at the University of Arizona in Fall 2016.

[] Could you please describe your current responsibilities as a Clinical Practice Manager/Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Northbay Medical Center?

[Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC] My role as the Clinical Practice Manager/Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is an evolving one. I was initially hired as the Clinical Practice Manager (CPM) and to practice fully at the highest level of my degree and experience, the role of NNP was added. As the first NNP for the NICU at this organization, I’m still defining what this position should look like. Through the process of creating my role, I learned to develop standardized procedures that allow me to practice as a NNP under the guidance of a neonatologist. Having previously worked at UCSF as a NNP, I appreciated the extent of nursing autonomy and teamwork that experience provided me. My responsibilities as CPM still take up a majority of my time so I have to make a conscious effort to delineate time in my schedule to work as a NNP. As CPM, I have authority and accountability for the orientation and educational offerings provided to not only the NICU nurses but also medical/surgical nurses that can care for stable neonates, for example neonates with hyperbilirubinemia requiring phototherapy. I also collaborate closely with the Neonatologists and Pediatricians in the development of clinical practice policies and procedures. This requires research on current evidence or best practices and integrating this information into policies and procedures.

I have gained on-the-job training and experience in program development in bringing onboard the use of inhaled nitric oxide which required multidisciplinary input from various stakeholders including finance, respiratory care, Chief Nursing and Medical Officers and Neonatologists. I was the project coordinator for a 2 year California Neonatal Collaborative, Optimizing Length of Separation, and spear-headed practice changes which ultimately reduced variation amongst the physician group. From this Collaborative, a clinical research study received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and I’m the primary investigator looking at parental confidence at time of discharge from the NICU.

As CPM, it’s very important for me to understand the skills of everyone that works in the NICU and how valuable their input and recommendations are which helps to build trust, engagement and buy-in. Northbay Medical Center has had a lot of beneficial and successful changes over the last couple years. As an organization we sought to achieve Magnet® and Baby-Friendly designations, both of which were attained in 2015. One NICU nurse commented to me that change is part of how we run things; we do lots of Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA’s) and are always trying to improve the patient experience, outcomes and employee satisfaction. PDSAs are ways to test the cycle of change and are used widely in the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Model of Improvement. Utilizing the PDSA cycle, one would plan the change, implement the change, study the change and then act to continue with the change or try another strategy. This is a never-ending process as healthcare is continuously changing and we need to stay abreast of best practices, hospital processes and consistently seek out areas of improvement.

I have oversight of many other things such as the transport team and product implementation. In addition, I’m a mentor to several Clinical Nurse III’s within the organization and as part of the organization’s CPM/APRN group. I also participate in organizational level committees such as Code Blue, Clinical Alarms and Education Sub-Committee.

[] Could you please describe your past role and responsibilities as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital?

[Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC] Working at an institution like UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, which is a Regional Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) and academic center in San Francisco provided me with a breadth of experiences. With multiple pediatric sub-specialties such as cardio-thoracic, surgery, GI, infectious disease, neurology and many others I was never lacking in opportunities to gain new knowledge and manage complex medical cases. The NNP group was established decades ago, and they are an integral part of the medical and nursing team and have garnered the respect of all the clinicians they work with. It is an expectation to autonomously manage a case-load of patients and perform necessary procedures such as intubation, umbilical vein and artery catheterizations, percutaneously inserted central lines (PICC), lumbar punctures and delivery room attendance.

In addition, as a NNP, I collaborated with neonatal fellows, attendings, respiratory therapists and consulted other sub-specialists if it was warranted for one of my patients. I was also a member of the neonatal transport team and provided medical management for critically ill infants on ground, fixed-wing and helicopter transports within Northern California. The neonatal transport team consisted of me and a NICU nurse; the goal of transport is to stabilize an infant prior to leaving the referring hospital but many times an infant would decompensate en route to UCSF and we would support the infant as best as possible in a limited space such as in the back of an ambulance, helicopter or small airplane. Not only is there limited space but limited personnel and equipment; constant assessment of an infant during transport is thus critically important in properly managing during transport.

[] You were also a Captain and a Staff Nurse for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the US Air Force. Could you please explain your daily and long-term responsibilities in this role, and how you provided care and support to active duty military personnel and their newborn children?

[Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC] For the most part, there were no differences in caring for a baby in the NICU at David Grant Medical Center at Travis AFB, CA versus other hospital settings. Some of the challenges I encountered were if a parent (usually the father) was deployed as our country was in the midst of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The added stress of having the mother’s husband deployed while their infant is in the NICU can be overwhelming for a new mother. Some mothers were active duty airmen themselves so there may be an added layer of complications and hurdles for an active duty mother with an infant in the NICU. Other responsibilities included reviewing and revising “Standard Operating Procedures” or SOPs and serving as an Infection Control committee member to help develop and implement infection prevention and control initiatives.

One of the most rewarding roles was being the Officer in Charge for the base’s Honor Guard. I had the privilege of working with an amazing group of enlisted and senior enlisted airmen and the experience of handing off the American flag to the next-of-kin is one of the most humbling events I’ve ever experienced.

[] Why did you decide to work in advanced neonatal nursing specifically, and what path did you take to discover that this field of advanced practice nursing was right for you?

[Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC] While taking pre-requisite courses at the local community college in Tampa, FL, I worked as a secretary for the Neonatology group at Tampa General Hospital. They were such a supportive group of people and very interested in me and my career path. I’ve always wanted to help people so becoming a nurse seemed like a logical step. After completing my prerequisites, I applied for the ADN program and was accepted to my delight! I contemplated psych and perioperative (OR) nursing but after working closely with the neonatologists as a secretary in their office and then taking a part-time position as an aide in the NICU at Tampa General Hospital, it was destiny for me to become a NICU nurse. Working in the NICU, you not only care for an extremely premature infant who weighs less than a pound or the term infant with meconium aspiration syndrome, but you’re also taking care of that infant’s family. The trust that parent(s) give you, the role I play in empowering and teaching the parents to discover their baby’s cues and ultimately to wish them well upon discharge are all huge satisfiers as a NICU nurse. I’ve had wonderful mentors throughout my career who have helped guide me through my path to where I’m at today.

[] What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of working in advanced neonatal nursing? On the other hand, what specific challenges have you encountered in this field of work, and how have you managed these challenges?

[Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC] I can’t think of a better career path than nursing in general, for me. I have been a staff nurse, charge nurse, transport nurse, Air Force nurse and NNP. The level of autonomy, decision-making, collaborating and project development has been very fulfilling for me professionally. Many doorways open up if you are willing to push yourself beyond your comfort level and become involved in your profession. Not only am I gaining new knowledge but I feel it’s my duty as a professional nurse to help mentor others and provide them with the tools to become a better clinician which results in better patient outcomes. I’m recently published in Neonatal Network, a member of the Quality Improvement (QI) panel for California Perinatal Quality Care Collaborative, and have participated in poster sessions at conferences and will be a podium presenter at an upcoming neonatal nursing conference.

One of the challenges is maintaining a healthy work perspective. It can be mentally exhausting working with critically ill infants, their parents and families, and unfortunately some infants will die, which presents an incredible challenge for all family members and medical professionals involved. On a personal level, I try not to take my work home with me. That is a very common adage, but it has helped me throughout my career. Many of my friends work in the healthcare industry and having people know and understand the challenges of medicine and nursing can be a great solace for support. In those occurrences when a baby unfortunately dies, and one has in every hospital I’ve worked in, there has been wonderful assistance from management, nursing and physician colleagues and spiritual services.

Another challenge is staying up to date with current neonatal evidence and practice changes. One way one can stay current is to become a member of professional organization(s).

[] For current and prospective MSN students who are interested in becoming neonatal nurse practitioners, what advice can you give them about optimally preparing for this field while pursuing their degree?

[Jenny Quinn, NNP-BC] Question everything! You’ll never stop learning and the more you can absorb from those willing to teach, the better–take advantage of those opportunities. If you are working in a NICU, volunteer for projects or participate in a unit committee. This may give you an opportunity to learn about project development and management and also collaborate with other disciplines to attain a goal or objective. Having a foundation in evidence-based practice, such as learning how to critique research articles and learning about quality improvement work like the model for improvement from the Institute of Health is important as neonatal medicine and nursing is ever evolving and changing. Join a professional nursing organization as they offer many membership benefits such as journal subscriptions, access to listservs, discounts to conferences and many other benefits. Be a life-long learner of nursing and love what you do!

Thank you Ms. Quinn for participating in our APRN career guide interview series!

About the Author: Kaitlin Louie is the Managing Editor of, and creates informational content that aims to assist students in making informed decisions about graduate programs. She earned her BA & MA in English from Stanford University.