November 9th-14th is National NP Week. No this is not supposed to be a Hallmark holiday filled with chocolates, free lunches and thank you cards. That’s for Secretary’s or Bosses Day (which I think is bogus but that’s fodder for another post).
NP week was designed to be an Awareness Campaign to help educate the public about NPs, and to remind lawmakers of the importance of removing outdated barriers. This year is especially momental as it marks the passing of the NYS Modernization Act: Effective Jan 1, 2015, this new law removes the requirement of a written practice agreement between an experienced nurse practitioner and a collaborating physician as a condition of practice.
The one thing I was completely sure of when I began my career as a Nurse Practitoner was how much I didn’t know. The classroom time, credit hours, and clinical experiences satisfied my state’s requirement for NP licensure and national certification, but it would be a long while before I would be comfortable in my “new shoes”.
Preventative care, acute and chronic illnesses, childhood ailments, common health problems, medical mysteries, and terminal disease were to me a murky land and I was a pilgrim. When I began this adventure twenty-three years ago, there was no Epocrates, UpToDate, or other Medical Apps to sift through differentials and no google images to help identify rashes. It was just me and my Hoole, and a collaborating physician who had faith in me.
My hands shook when I wrote a prescription. My heart pounded when I heard the complaint “chest pain”. How could I do this? I wanted to run, throw my lab coat in the dumpster, and find a job at a coffee shop. I could do that, make a good cup of coffee.
A year passed, things started becoming easier, and I grew in confidence. Year two, I no longer felt like an alien, I had gained experience. The fog of greenness had lifted. I had become a Nurse Practitioner.
Now it’s two decades later and National NP week. I almost forgot about it, again! Then I saw a shout-out email sent to my department with me and fifty of my colleagues listed. It read,
National Nurse Practitioner Week. Please join me in celebrating the many accomplishments of the Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, and Physician Assistants in our Department. Their expertise, commitment, and team spirit are often the wind beneath our wings.
Despite the fact that last sentence starts Bette Midler singing in my head, that was gracious, and sufficient. I don’t need candy, or to be taken out to lunch. This week is not about recognition, it’s about awareness. There are many misconceptions about who we are and what we do. NP’s are not MD’s. We have similarities, we are different. We are not a replacement for doctors, rather we are a branch of the same tree: health care providers.
NP, MD, DO, PA, CNS, CNM, CRNA, RN: Our Health Care Rock Stars who do life saving, life-changing , ground-breaking, rad work. I applaud them all!
Being a nurse practitioner is not easy work. I think only another NP can appreciate what I mean by that. I don’t work in a posh office with Stickley furniture and catered lunches. No banker’s hours for me. I have a ten-minute walk from my parking space to the hospital entrance. And when I greet my first patient, it’s game on. From the first to the last it’s all about them, not me. I listen, support, hold a hand, give a hug, look in eyes, encourage, reflect, help, guide, teach, smile and do what I can, with what I have, where I am. And when I’m extra tired or feeling worn and thinking, I need to retire , a patient will say something to snap me back to why I love my job.
“Thank you. Can you always take care of me? You don’t know how much this means to me. You’re the first person that didn’t treat me like an addict. Yes, I think this might work! I’m so glad you’re still here. You are good at what you do. I appreciate your kindness.”
Now that’s recognition. Hearing those words keeps me coming back. I chose this career, if I could go back in time I would choose it again in a heartbeat. Kudos to my fellow NP’s and let’s not worry about whether or not we get a card, a latté, chocolate, or a thank you email. That’s for Hallmark fluff holidays. National NP week is about education and awareness.
All about NP’s: Downloadable Infographic