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Neonatal specialist named State Direct Care Nurse of the Year

by Chris DeFrancesco - June 23, 2008

She’s the nurse you’d want taking care of your baby.

That’s how co-workers describe Donna Buchanan, who has the dual role of neonatal transport coordinator and neonatal nursing outreach coordinator at the UConn Health Center.

She also is the 2008 State Direct Care Nurse of the Year, as awarded by the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services.

The narrative of her nomination describes Buchanan as “the best in nursing and nurses.”

Nursing director Ellen Leone, who nominated her for the award, says, “Over the years that I’ve been at the Health Center, everyone to a person has said to me, ‘If it was my baby, I would want Donna Buchanan taking care of him or her.’”

As neonatal transport coordinator, Buchanan is responsible for the oversight of safety and performance of the neonatal transport system. In this role she also is a transport team leader, responding to calls from other hospitals in the region to stabilize and transport infants who require transfer to a newborn intensive care nursery.

As neonatal nursing outreach coordinator, she provides multidisciplinary training and education to health care providers throughout the state through training, regional conference development, and seminars focused on particular topics.

“She lives and breathes the operational success of the transport program,” says nursing manager Maureen Guzzi, Buchanan’s supervisor.

“She works closely with community hospitals, the nurses, the physicians, and all other disciplines to assure best practice in stabilization of sick infants in the community until our team can get there. She really goes above and beyond when it comes to every detail around this program.”

Jeanne Lattanzio, the Health Center’s retired nursing director who now serves as coordinator of its March of Dimes Neonatal Family Support Program, says, “Donna’s responsible and capable attitude provides the parents with a feeling of trust and confidence in the transport team that will be caring for their baby. Her expert care and devotion to the young patients in her care have been demonstrated over the years through her willingness to go out on transport in any kind of weather conditions.”

From left, Donna Buchanan and team members Wendell Cote, Mardi Hayden, and Michelle Tardif ready a Health Center neonatal transport van for a call.
From left, Donna Buchanan and team members Wendell Cote, Mardi Hayden, and Michelle Tardif ready a Health Center neonatal transport van for a call.
Photo by Janine Gelineau

A recent example occurred last December, when a winter storm prevented the neonatal transport team from responding to a call from Bristol Hospital.

Buchanan enlisted the help of Health Center Fire Lt. Wendell Cote, who took her there in a four-wheel drive vehicle so she could stabilize a distressed infant until the rest of the team could arrive.

“It was just daily business, as far as I was concerned,” Buchanan says. “It was pretty bad, and nothing was plowed, but it’s New England, and we got through it.”

After about a week in the Health Center’s Newborn Intensive Care Nurseries, the baby went home with his family.

Says Buchanan, “The success of the transport system lies not with me but with the dedication of the entire team: attending neonatologists, neonatal fellows, midlevel practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, firefighters, and referring physicians. They are all vital to the team and I have never known them to waver in their commitment. I feel like I am accepting this award on their behalf.”

Buchanan has been with the Health Center since 1982, when she started as a neonatal nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist.

A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Nursing, she started her career in neonatology in the U.S. Army.

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