The technical definition of a nurse practitioner is “a nurse who is qualified to treat certain medical conditions without the direct supervision of a doctor,” but for one Levittown resident, the job description extends far beyond that. Donna Hallas, a 30-year Levittown resident, has made strides in the medical field, particularly in her areas of specialization. With a focus in pediatric nursing and behavioral health, Hallas’ work at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing is breaking ground in the world of healthcare.
“We mostly work with high risk children,” said Hallas “We’ll work on treatment and health maintenance so they can reach their optimal level of health.”
Hallas, director of the pediatric nursing program and the NYU Rory College of Nursing, works primarily with students on a day-to-day basis at the moment. The goal is to give these rising nursing students hands-on experience in a pediatric setting in order to equip them with the skills necessary to excel in the field.
Aside from working within the pediatric unit, Hallas addresses patients with mild mental health disorders including depression, anxiety and ADHD. Such mental conditions have gone largely unrecognized in terms of treatment outlets and options, prompting Hallas to fill that void.
“There has been a movement to educate healthcare providers about basic mental health problems,” she said. “There’s much more awareness, and a lot of well recognized individuals coming out saying they’re suffering.”
While each patient requires a different course of action, there are certain standard proceedings to address these conditions. An essential first step is screening and identifying specific needs. Early identification is the key to choosing a path toward improvement that will allow an individual to reach their optimal level of mental health. Equally as important is parental education. In order to foster an environment that allows for progress, parents must be well versed in terms of language and behavior toward their afflicted child.
Hallas, considered an expert in her field, received her pediatric nursing degree from Stony Brook University and continued on to earn her Ph.D. from Adelphi University. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she initially intended to be a family nurse practitioner until Stony Brook introduced a new program for those wishing to specialize in pediatrics. The field sparked an immediate interest and led Hallas to the point in her career today.
As for her current endeavors, Hallas is in the process of conducting research surrounding vaccine hesitancy. As a proponent of vaccinating one’s children, she aims to analyze the reasons behind the reluctance of parents to vaccinate and devise ways to educate those who are skeptical. The overall goal of the study is to help parents make informed decisions when it comes to their children’s health.
“Some of the most horrible diseases have been prevented by vaccines,” said Hallas. “We know the consequences of kids who aren’t vaccinated.”
She aspires to receive national funding in the near future so that the study can reach its full potential and reach a widespread audience. According to Hallas, the greatest message she hopes people will take away is that vaccinations are effective and save lives.