Nurse Practitioner, What an Adventure!
I was pregnant during my final year of nurse practitioner school and set to deliver after graduation. I waddled along completing my residency during my final semester. The finish line was in reach and my hard work was paying off. Interestingly enough, my OB/GYN was gracious enough to let me precept with her during my pregnancy. In case you are wondering, yes, I was pregnant taking care of other pregnant ladies. This made for great conversations and interactions during patient visits. Anyway, I had it all planned out. I was looking forward to graduation on Saturday, December 15th. I had just gotten my cap and gown and I made sure to get the gown large enough to accommodate my gigantic belly. The Thursday before graduation, I had my whole day planned. I had an OB appointment that morning after which I was to go get my hair done. From there I was planning to squeeze in a pedicure. Not that I was planning to wear open-toe shoes for graduation but my feet were in need. Plus, with delivery expected to happen right around Christmas, I did not want to deliver with crusty feet. For a reason that I can not recall now, I was running a little behind getting to my appointment. I was so behind that I didn’t have time to stop by the Hardee's drive-thru for the omelet biscuit that I was craving. I didn’t sweat it too much because I would head straight back there once I was done with my appointment. Needless to say that I felt like I was starving by the time I completed the appointment. Actually, the appointment never quite ended. Not on that day at least.
I was only supposed to be having my weekly non-stress test. This was done because I was in the high-risk pregnancy category. I was over thirty, had high blood pressure, and had experienced a prior pregnancy loss. The non-stress tests could monitor fetal movement as well as uterine contractions. As it turns out my uterus was contracting regularly and with more force than I knew. My spunky nurse asked, “you don’t feel that?” I was like, “feel what?” I felt my baby moving which he did especially when we were hungry because otherwise, he was pretty laid back. I was trying to hurry up and get to my biscuit! She told me that I was going to have to wait right there until I saw my doctor. For a moment I was nervous because I wasn’t scheduled to see her that day and I was hoping and praying nothing was wrong. My doctor came in soon. Nothing was wrong, except that I was in labor! To my surprise and dismay, I would be going from her office down to labor and delivery. Starving with dirty hair, dusty feet, and no hospital bag, I was headed to deliver my nearly 10 pounds bundle of joy. There would be no in-person graduation for me. I thought to myself, “how did I end up here?”
So to get to what it means to be a nurse practitioner, let’s first look at what it means to be a registered nurse. With a bit of an unconventional path, I went to nursing school after having already obtained a Bachelor of Science. Upon graduation from nursing school, I received a second bachelor’s. Instead of this taking me another 4 years, it took me 2 because I already had a bachelor’s. Now with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, I was set to take the licensure exam to become a registered nurse. For most registered nurses (RN), a career in nursing looks something like this. They have attended nursing school, either a 2-year program or a 4-year program. A 2-year program grants you an associate’s degree and a 4-year program grants you a bachelor’s degree. Now back to me. Upon graduating from the nursing program with my degree I could not start nursing right away. I had to take a national exam called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and pass to be granted a nursing license. Once I successfully passed the NCLEX, I was able to obtain my Alabama state license through the board of nursing (each state has one) and practice as a registered nurse. Thankfully, I already had a job in the hospital where I worked my way through nursing school as a patient care technician.
I, like many nurses, practiced as a registered nurse for some years, gaining valuable experience along the way. Some nurses even become experts in certain areas of nursing. I decided that I wanted to further my education and broaden my scope of practice. Of the advanced degrees available to nurses, I knew the nurse practitioner degree was the way for me. Other options include Nurse Educator, Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
The graduation that I missed was from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where I obtained my Masters of Nursing (MSN) degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner. One of my classmates was nice enough to save a program for me and somewhere there is a picture of me in my cap and gown that was later returned to the store for someone else to use. Good thing being present at graduation was not mandatory huh?
This is the second post in the Nurse Practitioner Week series. Here's the first one, Nurse Practitioner Who?.