October 21, 2018

Laurie A. Salerno, aNP-BC

Primary Care Provider & Cardiac Nurse Practitioner, JenCare Neighborhood Medical Centers

 

When Laurie Salerno started a Heart Failure Cardiology Clinic at her practice in 2015, she aimed high: she would take the sickest, most challenging, highest-cost patients and see if she could increase their healthy days and keep them out of the hospital.

The impact was virtually immediate.

Data on the first 44 patients in the six-week program, which covers understanding heart failure, medication, nutrition, exercise, symptom awareness and management of other chronic conditions, showed a dramatic drop in total hospital admissions. In the three months prior to being in the clinic, the group had 114 admissions, 60 of them for a cardiac diagnosis. In the six months following, those totals decreased to 14 and 3, respectively.

“We really can change the course of their disease,” Salerno says. “I love being on the front lines like that. I love having the time to develop close relationships with my patients. It’s easy to be passionate about my job.”

Along with her cardiac work, Salerno spends about 70 percent of her time as a PCP for JenCare, a group that focuses on seniors with a value-based model of care rather than fee-for-service. A native of upstate New York, she opted to become a nurse practitioner due to a long-standing desire to nurture others. In fact, she moved to Virginia in 2014 to care for her now-82-year-old father in her home.

Along with a nursing degree from D’Youville College in Buffalo, Salerno holds an Adult Nurse Practitioner master’s degree from State University of New York at Buffalo, where she did research on cardiac rehabilitation for heart failure patients. She has a wide medical background after 17 years as a registered nurse and another 17 as a nurse practitioner, most of them at Buffalo General Medical Center. There, she helped create an outpatient center for heart and lung patients that included a training component for medical students and residents. Concurrently, she was in a private internal medicine and cardiology practice for 12 years.

At JenCare, Salerno recently completed a successful pilot exercise program for heart failure patients, incorporating strength, endurance and balance training. Her next goal is to develop a dietary program for all patients, not only those with heart issues. That would emphasize a whole-food, plant-based diet, along with some lean poultry and fish, while limiting fat, salt, sugar, red meat and dairy.

“We could make so many improvements simply through food, from managing diabetes and blood pressure to reducing arthritis inflammation and the risk of certain cancers,” she says. “We need to be practical, too: If I’m on a limited budget at Wal-Mart, here’s what I should buy. If I’m on a low-sodium diet at Subway, I can order the tuna or roasted chicken.’” (Salerno also revamped JenCare’s snacks, kicking out salty pretzels and Chex Mix while keeping fruit, low-salt snacks and sugar-free cookies.).

Not surprisingly, Salerno is a giver outside work as well. Along with caring for her dad, she is guiding her 56-year-old husband through early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and has two grown daughters adopted out of foster care. “They were 9 and 12 when I met them, and their first question was, ‘Please, are you going to adopt us?’” she recalls. “They’d spent almost 10 years bouncing from family to family.” Salerno also has two stepchildren, five grandchildren and six rescue animals, four cats and two dogs.

In addition, church volunteer work has taken Salerno to Haiti five times; she also traveled on a 2017 medical mission to Nicaragua through JenCare.

About to turn 60, Salerno has no plans to slow down anytime soon. “My work gives me so much energy,” she says. “I feel blessed that I’m in a position to give my senior patients the kind of care that they deserve.”