Is there a nurse practitioner in the house? 28, actually

New heights: SkyHealth nurse Naara Zapata is among the first 28 nurse practitioners to graduate from the Hofstra/Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Three years after opening its doors, the Hofstra/Northwell nursing school is promoting its first graduating class.

Twenty-eight freshly minted nurse practitioners – each specializing in either adult-gerontology acute-care nursing, psychiatric/mental health nursing or family nursing – are set to receive their degrees Friday, marking the first graduates to emerge from the Hofstra/Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies.

The school, a joint venture of Hempstead-based Hofstra University and New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, opened in 2015 after the New York State Department of Education signed off on its license-qualifying nurse-practitioner curriculum. That approval came just two months after the then-Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine promoted its first graduating class.

All 28 of Friday’s nurse-practitioner graduates are already employed by Northwell Health, the health system said in a statement, including several that saw plenty of action in the field before and during their three years of study at the part-time graduate nursing school.

Amy Smith: Putting her experience into practice.

Among the graduates is Naara Zapata, a registered nurse who works as a flight nurse for SkyHealth, a state-of-the-art emergency helicopter service that operates in conjunction with Northwell Health and other regional health systems and hospitals – “an extraordinarily complex and stress-filled job,” Northwell noted in a statement.

Also earning their nurse-practitioner stripes are Amy Smith – an RN who established the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program at Northwell Health’s Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, earning her a 2016 Northwell Health President’s Award – and Christian Velez, an RN and critical-care worker at Huntington Hospital who has served on hurricane-response teams and Ebola-focused task forces.

As nurse practitioners, Velez and the other 27 graduates will be licensed to manage acute and chronic physical and mental conditions in a variety of ways not available to registered nurses. Nurse practitioners can perform physical exams and some medical procedures, order diagnostic tests and advanced medical procedures, prescribe medications and issue a wide range of professional referrals.

The first-ever graduating class is scheduled to be honored in a ceremony featuring Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling and Hofstra/Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies Dean Kathleen Gallo (herself an RN and a PhD) beginning 10 a.m. Friday at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Hempstead.


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