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Career Story: Nurse Practitioner In A Family Healthcare Practice

Nurse Practitioner In A Family Healthcare Practice

Job Title: Family Nurse Practitioner

Type of Company: Providing primary health care to families in our community.

Education: RN, St. Louis City Hospital School of Nursing •• FNP, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Previous Experience: I have been a nurse in prisons, drug abuse clinics and homes for emotionally-disturbed children from Kentucky to Minnesota to North Carolina.

Job Tasks: Monday through Friday, 8:30-5:00, I see a wide range of people, from newborns to geriatrics, for a variety of health care problems and diseases.

My favorite line of work is health maintenance: the yearly physical exams in which I listen to the person tell her story, how she feels, how she goes through her day -- eating, thinking, working, learning, playing -- and how she interacts with others: what she's hoping will happen next in her life. "Is there anything feeling wrong? Has something changed?" Then I ask a lot of questions trying to discern what's right and what's wrong about this person's health. I do the physical exam, head to toe, looking for what's right and not-so-right. Then I formulate a plan of action for this person: do some health teaching, maybe how to improve their diet, begin an exercise regimen, stop smoking, begin birth control, maybe prescribe some allergy medicine... whatever she and I think is helpful. I end by asking what impediments she foresees to implementing this plan and finally, what questions she has.

Sometimes the job is less pleasant. Last year I diagnosed a friend's pancreatic cancer. She died exactly a year to the day from the day that I gave her the news.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The detective work of medicine is captivating. I listen to a person's complaint, examine the body parts involved, make a mental list of all the possibilities, maybe get more information via lab tests or x-rays and hopefully, make a diagnosis and formulate a plan of action: medication, surgery, physical therapy, etc.

Job Tips:
1.) Don't graduate owing more money than you can pay off in five years. In this economy you'd be lucky to pay back $1,200 a year. Maybe start with an AD degree from your community college, save some money and then go on. The experience will be to your advantage.

2.) Truth and honesty are the most important qualities. Patients trust you and your expertise. This is no time to lie about a mistake or hedge the truth. Saying "I don't know" is a valid response especially when followed by "but I'll find out".

3.) Respect: respect for each person you see, from the homeless, smelly guy to the supervisor who is on your case. But self-respect is paramount.

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