Loretta A. Sernekos, PhD, MSN, AGPCNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, CNE
When Loretta A. Sernekos became very involved in taking care of a family member with a chronic pain syndrome and another family member with dementia, she became an avid reader of medical journals and started teaching stress management and relaxation techniques to chronic pain patients. She asked so many questions about medicine that her own nurse practitioner suggested that she go into nursing.
“As both a nurse and teacher, I constantly emphasize to all my students how important it is to educate both patients and caregivers.”
- PhD, Rutgers University, 1996
- Post-Master’s Certificate, Johns Hopkins University, 2019
- MSN, University of Pennsylvania , 2012
- BSN, Thomas Jefferson University, 2010
- BA, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, 1986
Dr. Sernekos is the Course Director for NURS1650, Integrated Pathophysiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Her approach to this course is to help students so completely understand a disease’s pathophysiology that the pharmacologic treatment seems intuitive. With the dual perspectives of biology (including genetics) and the social determinants of health, she helps students think about who is more at risk for certain diseases. In parallel with the Simulation Lab portion of the course, she emphasizes patient safety and the need for nurses to be aware of potential adverse effects and drug interactions of the medications they give their patients. Equally importantly, she emphasizes the nurse’s role in teaching patients and their caregivers how to understand and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and other disorders. She has written numerous case studies, based on actual patients, that her students work on collaboratively in the classroom, and which reinforce foundational concepts and the students’ developing skills of clinical judgment and patient teaching.
Dr. Sernekos is also a guest lecturer in other courses on both diabetes and stroke in older adults.
Dr. Sernekos had already earned a PhD in political science and had taught at Rutgers University, when she decided to combine her intellectual curiosity for all things medical, with her passion for helping people holistically, via a career in nursing. By 2010, she had earned her BSN degree and started working as a staff nurse taking care of patients after strokes, brain surgery, or traumatic brain injuries at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia.
Two years later, after receiving her MSN degree from Penn Nursing, she started a new career as an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. Realizing that caring for the full spectrum of her patients’ health concerns required more in-depth knowledge of psychiatric disorders, she returned to school in 2018 to earn her Post-Master’s Certificate in Psychiatric-Mental Health. Today, she is both a full-time advanced senior lecturer at Penn Nursing and a part-time psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. Her clinical experiences in both primary care and psychiatry, as well as her personal experiences as a caregiver for an older relative, inform Dr. Sernekos’ teaching. She frequently reminds students to think about the unique circumstances of their patients’ lives at both the micro and macro level, and how those circumstances may impact their health.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
Dr. Sernekos teaches pathophysiology and pharmacology to undergraduates. She explains why knowing the normal state of cellular and body functions (physiological) is crucial to understanding the abnormal state caused by injury, disease, or aging (pathophysiological). She then takes that understanding to the next level to help her students learn why the pharmacologic treatment of diseases targets certain pathologic processes – why the pharmacology makes sense, in other words. With her training in gerontology, Dr. Sernekos also focuses on how older adults may present differently than younger patients, and how they respond differently to medications. She also focuses on the ways in which psychological trauma and psychiatric disorders may impact an individual’s health. A dedicated teacher, she is a Certified Nurse Educator through the National League for Nursing.
Selected Career Highlights
- Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence by Non-Standing Faculty, 2023
- Presenter, Center for Teaching and Learning Workshop, “Helping Struggling Students”, 2022
- Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, 2018
- Academic Staff Mentorship Award, Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 2018
- Anne Keane Teaching Award, Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 2017
- Gail Kass Honorary Endowed Scholars Program awardee, 2011-2012
- Member, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
- Member, American Psychiatric Nurses Association
- Author, “Nutritional Treatment of Pressure Ulcers: What is the evidence?,” Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 25, 281-288. doi:10.1002/2327-6924.12025