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Advancing Pediatric Health with Advocacy, Care and Smart Policy

Caroline Toomey

Future PNP Caroline Toomey wants to empower children and families to live healthy lives and prevent future health problems


In the final year of her pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) master’s program at the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, Caroline Toomey, BSN, RN, CPN, looks forward to having an even broader health impact on families and children. The Drexel Hill, Pa. resident knew she wanted to be a pediatric nurse after she shadowed those in the specialty and had clinical experiences in her undergraduate nursing program. Since her 2015 graduation from Bloomsburg University, she has been a staff nurse on the pediatric unit at Main Line Health’s Bryn Mawr Hospital and also works for Bayada Pediatric Home Health Care.

“Caring for children with chronic conditions, such as asthma, has allowed me to realize the important role healthcare providers have in providing education to children and their families,” Toomey notes. She explains the next phase of her career, “As a future nurse practitioner in a primary care setting, I will be in a role where I can collaborate with various healthcare providers to provide education and counseling for pediatric patients and their families. I want to be in a position that I can empower children and families to live healthy lives and prevent future health problems.” She chose Villanova Nursing’s PNP track as the academic community that would get her there in terms of clinical and leadership prowess.

To date, she especially enjoyed her advanced physical assessment course to prepare her for her upcoming role and is excited to be in her final year with clinical rotations to continue to learn and apply the knowledge and skills from her courses in the primary care setting.

In parallel with her love for pediatrics, Toomey is also passionate about policy. As a new nurse, she joined the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) and American Nurses Association (ANA). She got involved in PSNA’s Young Nurse Professionals (YNP) group and served as the regional leader for the Philadelphia area, helping to organize and plan networking and educational events for new nursing professionals within their first five years of initial licensure. She served as president of the YNP Advisory Board for two and a half years and one of her favorite experiences was connecting with fellow nurses and nursing students throughout the state. “I actually had the opportunity to speak at a SNAP meeting at Villanova in 2018,” she recalls.

Toomey has widened her scope with additional participation in various legislative programs as a member of PSNA and ANA. In 2016, she was part of ANA’s American Nurse Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. She shares, “Over the course of a year, I participated in this mentorship program with nurses from around the country to develop advocacy skills and increase my knowledge about my role in influencing public policy. While in Washington D.C., I attended sessions that provided a great insight into how politics affect both policies and the nursing profession.” Sessions included such topics as digital advocacy, effective communication with legislators and their staff, and conducting a political environmental scan. “From this experience, a fellow PSNA colleague and I went back to Pennsylvania and developed an advocacy project for a pediatric patient population we both care for: infants withdrawing from opioids. I have also been able to apply my advocacy skills by speaking with my legislators in Harrisburg and Washington D.C by participating in both PSNA’s and ANA’s Hill Days,” she explains.

Toomey adds, “I am so grateful for my mentors who encouraged me to get involved in the nursing profession and community...I have been able to gain leadership and advocacy skills, learn from nurses from around the country, and understand how important it is to use my voice to help make a positive difference for my patients and my community, and address issues affecting the nursing profession.”  

What advice does this nurse leader have? Toomey asserts, “Join your state’s student nurses association while in school or your state’s professional nursing association after graduation. I have seen first-hand how valuable and beneficial my membership in both PSNA and ANA has positively impacted my nursing career so far and I know I will be able to apply the knowledge and experiences I have gained to my future role as a pediatric nurse practitioner.”

As Toomey makes her way to her career as a PNP, she looks forward to combining her previous clinical experience with what she is learning as a graduate student at Villanova.  In that future practice, she says, “I hope to be in a position that I can be actively engaged in the community while providing compassionate and innovative care to pediatric patients and their families. I also hope to continue to be involved in legislative initiatives and use my voice to impact public policy affecting children in the future.”