Sept. 17, 2019

Fellow nursing alumni team up to write navigational book for parents of premature babies

50 Faces of Nursing: Karen Lasby, MN’95, and Tammy Sherrow, MN’95

It was inevitable that Karen Lasby, Alberta Health Services' team lead/clinical nurse specialist for the Neonatal Transition Team in Calgary’s Postpartum Community and Tammy Sherrow, associate professor at Mount Royal University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, would combine their friendship and over 60 years of collective experience working with premature infants to co-author a book

After all, the two graduated together twice: in 1980, from USask’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and 15 years later, from UCalgary Nursing.

“Our passion for preemies and their parents has fueled our drive to publish a resource book, Preemie Care: A guide to navigating the first year with your premature baby, designed for those parents and for health-care professionals,” say the pair, who cite their formidable experience as an expertise unparalleled globally.

“We were passionate about empowering parents with the knowledge we have gained from over 3,000 preemies and their families, our research and our literature review. It is true knowledge dissemination our strategies are research-informed, nurse-designed and parent-tested.”

Both Lasby and Sherrow credit former UCalgary Nursing professor Colleen Stainton with helping them explore the neonatal/paediatric area and igniting their respective drive to contribute, through hands-on experience and through research, to this field.

“I was assigned to Colleen, a perinatology nursing expert with a strong publishing background, for my practicum,” Lasby recalls. “Her research on ‘maternal work’ during pregnancy moved me toward qualitative research and my first team publication about maternal work in the NICU. Being able to follow my passion at the University of Calgary was the pivotal point of my career.”

Sherrow also credits Stainton, who was her adviser, with mentoring her as she learned about the parental experience of having a critically ill child.

“I had the privilege of following a young family who had an infant diagnosed with cystic fibrosis,” she says now. “As a paediatric and neonatal nurse I was able to take a deep dive into this parental experience and eventually looked at the role of the parent within the intensive care environment.”

Tammy Sherow (left) and Karen Lasby co-authored  Preemie Care: A guide to navigating the first year with your premature baby.

Tammy Sherow, left, and Karen Lasby graduated together from the Master of Nursing program in 1995.

Tell us about the work you do and what drives you to do it.

Lasby: "I am passionate about empowering parents to become the expert of their premature baby(s). The key to a premature baby’s optimal growth and development and a family’s short- and long-term success is truly understanding why premature babies act like they do and knowing effective and strategies. With expert nursing guidance, these babies and parents can thrive despite their early and stressful start to life. Essentially, I am driven to ensure premature babies and parents don’t need me!"

Sherrow: "I love teaching and inspiring students. My motto is that education is ‘not just the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire’; that is what I work toward every day. The changes we have witnessed in health-care reform have changed the environments in which nurses practice. I am passionate about preparing nurses to work in this evolving system."

What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes coming in the profession?

Lasby: "I see the future of nursing coming full circle from the early VON days to the focus on hospital nursing care and now back to the benefits of community-based nursing care. Most patients in our hospitals can be safely cared for at home with expert community-based care from multidisciplinary health-care teams, including a strong predominance of nurses. While it is not cost-effective to regularly see all clients in their home, future nurses will harness live video technology to provide virtual assessments and guidance to keep our clients healthy and at home."

Sherrow: "With health-care reform, nurses need to be prepared to practice in a variety of settings and be independent and autonomous in their decision-making. So, in nursing education, we have to focus more on teaching clinical reasoning and discovering new ways to teach."

What piece of advice would you like to share with aspiring nurses?

Lasby: "Never stop learning. Stay current in research, join specialty associations, enrol in post-secondary courses and complete the certification with Canadian Nurses Association. Your patients deserve the best of you."

Sherrow: "Never become complacent! Consistently keep learning and growing. Always be an evidenced-based practitioner."

Is there one luxury in life you would rather not live without?

Lasby/Sherrow: "Travel!"

All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. If you know someone noteworthy (faculty, staff, alum, students, partners, etc.) who you would like us to feature, tell us more with this short online form. For more, visit nursing.ucalgary.ca/50