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Leading Care: Dr. Tresa Zielinski and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

In this interview, Tresa E. Zielinski '90 BSN, DNP, RN, APRN-PC, CPNP-PC reflects on her leadership in advancing nursing through service in a professional organization.

She is a pediatric nurse practitioner, Emergency Department, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago at Central Dupage Northwestern Medicine; and Immediate past-president, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP).

Dr. Tresa Zielinksi

How did you rise to this leadership position?    My friends pushed me to run for the offices.  I have been fortunate enough to know and go to school with as well as work with PNPs who have been book editors and Directors of PNP programs both Primary Care and Acute Care.

Who influenced you?    The medical director in the PICU at my second job pushed me to go back to school . He wanted me to go back to medical school but I explained that I would make a lousy doctor but I am great nurse.  We compromised on me getting my Acute Care PNP.  My Chief Nurse Officer and Administrators have also been very encouraging through my early career at Children's Memorial in Chicago.  My first job was at CHOP and that set the bar very high for professional expectations

Why is it important to you? Why are you enthusiastic about your work in this role?     My job as a pediatric nurse practitioner has been amazing and I have been fortunate to work with wonderful medical directors and through NAPNAP have become very involved with healthcare policy on a national level.  Spending a day on the hill in Washington DC is very inspiring.  It helps keep you motivated as well as national conferences where you get to hear about other issues across the country. 

What are the issues you deal with and what’s the biggest challenge in your area?      I am still struggling with defining what a PNP is to families at times even after 20 years and fighting for independent practice both locally in my state and nationally with incident-to billing. 

How are you effective in your role? What’s critical to your success in the role?    In my role as President I tried to lead following Jay Wright's philosophy being Humble and Hungry and pushing the envelope with doing the right thing for the children knowing that it is hard.  Autonomy is critical for an NP to function effectively. Since as in every other sector of life, everything follows the money, the NP needs to be able to bill independently to be truly effective. 

How does innovation fit into your role as leader?       Innovation is critical in any healthcare role as healthcare is ever evolving.  you need to be able to help the children and most of healthcare is directed toward adult care and measurements are geared toward adults. 

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently on your rise to this position or while in it?       I wish I had taken more time and done more on the national board level before jumping into the President role.  I will miss it desperately.  I am now assessing what I will do to satisfy myself professionally. 

What’s your advice to someone who wants to be a leader in their area of interest?       Start small on a committee and work your way up to more responsibility.  Find someone you admire and work with them.  Offer to help on projects.  Follow health policy.  Watch the money.

What is your leadership philosophy?    

  • Be Humble and Hungry
  • Push the line in the sand forward
  • Always do the right thing and it will all work out
  • Take chances
  • It is about the team, the patients and never about the leader. 
  • No one works for you, they work with you. 
  • Every team member is equally important

What’s your hope for our profession?    My hope is that we continue to grow and do not forget where we came from.  A nurse practitioner is an expert nurse who goes back for additional education.  There is not easy way or short cut to the this, it takes time to do it right.