Monday, October 21, 2013

Nursing 101 & the most common questions answered.

Today, as I was doing homework for my graduate program, I was thinking about nursing (of course). Many, many people have asked me, "What is a DNP and why did you choose it?" I have created a draft elevator speech - written as if I have graduated and am currently practicing -  of what I will do and how that is beneficial to you and our communities.

I am a doctorally-prepared nurse practitioner. We nurse practitioners are a solution for our country's growing healthcare access problems. I provide care comparable in quality to a pediatrician for a fraction of the cost. I use my background in nursing to give care focused on the individual needs of each patient, and my passion is helping kids live a happy and healthy life. 

What do you think? I am definitely open to suggestions and feedback - what do you know, think, love or dislike about nurse practitioners?

I have given a lot of advice to people who want to find out more information about nursing - details of the profession and why I think it is so great. I want to write a post answering some of the questions with the hope that I may help someone out there to collect information on whether or not nursing is the profession for them - or to give general information for anyone that is interested in learning more about what I do or nurses you love. To my nursing friends - feel free to add of correct anything I say in a comment! This is by no means a comprehensive account of the following questions :)

Common questions:

Explain the different types of nurses... I always get confused with the different letters!

This is understandable. There are a ton of different titles out there and they all mean something different in the world of nursing. Here is my list of what they mean (though not exhaustive).

CNA - Certified nursing assistant. Otherwise known as a nurse's aide. This is a position that normally takes on 3-5x the amount of patient load of a nurse (in a hospital setting) and they can work in hospitals, rehab facilities, long-term care facilities and home health settings. It takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to get a CNA license (different by state) and requires a practical and written test in most states. I was a CNA for three years, as was my husband. Being a CNA is an incredibly rewarding, although backbreaking, job. The main responsibilities of a CNA are to take vital signs, assist patients with activities of daily living (toileting, hygiene, transport, etc.) and to assist the nurse of that patient. It is a fantastic choice of job for anyone who wants to make sure that nursing is what they really want to do with their life. 

LPN - Licensed practical nurse. This position is normally gained after one year of schooling and passing a national test called NCLEX-PN. Although the standards and scope of an LPN varies with each state, the LPN is generally under the direction of an RN and in some cases may administer IV medications along with other types (oral, topical, etc). 

RN - Registered nurse. A RN can be trained with either an Associate's degree (ASN - 2 yrs) or a Bachelor's degree (BSN - 4 yrs). With either degree, you take the same test to get licensure, the NCLEX-RN. Most companies are now starting to prefer a BSN upon hire, or requiring someone with an associate's degree to attain their bachelor's to maintain employment. A BSN is generally required to be in any sort of nursing management position or to continue schooling for a nursing graduate degree. There is no difference, however, in role and responsibilities between ASN and BSN prepared nurses, and usually no pay difference either. 

APRN - Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. This is what nurses get when they go to grad school (like me!). There are four categories: Nurse Practitioner, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Certified Nurse Midwife. Some degrees are Master's degrees, but most positions are Doctorate degrees these days (and the rest are moving toward that). In most states, Nurse Practitioners can open a practice on their own, can prescribe medications and can do simple medical treatments and procedures. APRNs, in particular nurse practitioners, are different from Physician's Assistants in that NPs do not need to be working with a physician to practice, like a PA does. There's a lot more to the role - but these are the basics. Ask me if you want to know more!!

Why nursing?

This is a question that can be answered a million different ways. Nurses provide such an incredible emotional, physical, mental and spiritual support to patients. It is very difficult to describe how much each patient's successes, disappointments and general progress weighs on the heart of their nurse. Now, not all nurses care to that extent - but the really good ones are in this profession because they love to care. I love to care, so I hope I can be a great nurse! Nursing is also a wonderful profession in that it is extremely flexible... I know that I can hold a job while I am a mother without taking significant time away from my children. Being a mom is the most important goal to me and I am so excited that I have found a profession that I love - where I can further contribute to society and improve healthcare for children - that will allow me to still put my own family first. 

Why didn't you just go to medical school?

It is true that by the time I finish my 3-year doctorate degree, I will have had about the same clinical training as an MD gets in school. I chose to become a Nurse Practitioner because I love the "nursing model" of practice - I listen first and address the patient holistically. I love that the focus of my practice is based around the patient's individual wants and needs, not to cure a clinical diagnosis. I respect physicians very much and their point of view and model of practice is needed in conjunction with the nursing background to advance our healthcare for the better. While a Nurse Practitioner can serve a purpose the same or very close to that of a physician, the route to get there is significantly different. 

Why have you gone back to graduate school so soon after finishing your Baccalaureate nursing degree?

This is merely a personal decision, and I have been called "crazy" many times for choosing this path. I became interested in the nursing profession because of the example of an extraordinary nurse practitioner that cared for my younger sister when she was in treatment for her Leukemia a number of years ago. After examining my passions and goals in college, I knew that I wanted to make the same impact in the lives of other children as that special nurse practitioner made in my sister's life. I applied to graduate school in my last year of nursing school knowing that if I was accepted, I wanted to advance my degree as soon as possible. It is the norm for most people to practice for a few years (at least) as an RN before going to grad school, but apparently it's possible to go straight through. And I've been so lucky to have a fantastic program director at UW that has expressed so much support and confidence in my ability to be a successful nurse practitioner even though I have a shorter nursing background than most of my other colleagues. I also want to get done with school as soon as I can! :)

Okay so this post is probably long enough now! I have a lot to say on the subject of nursing. I hope that if you have any questions or comments on the subject, you will let me know! I am so happy to discuss the topic with anyone.

Happy Monday!

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