Have you been thinking about pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner? Well you aren’t the only one. This career field has become very popular as nurses begin to want more autonomy and growth in their professional lives. Nurses in general are often highly intelligent individuals, that are eager to grow both in education and in their careers, so it is often the natural step to move into the nurse practitioner role.
One such nurse who has done this successfully is Dr. Deonne Brown Benedict who pursued her education as a Nurse Practitioner and has opened her own successful practice in Washington.
Dr. Benedict was more than happy to share her experiences thus far in this field, and to help us all understand a bit better what being a nurse practitioner and becoming a nurse practitioner is actually like.
What made you want to first become a nurse?
Initially I was interested in the fields of psychology, medicine, physical therapy, and social work. Nursing combined elements of all these things. It also offered flexibility, particularly the ability to change specialties and places of work throughout your career, and work hours that would flex around a family.
What was your first job as a Nurse, can you describe it a bit for us?
My first job was night shift as a pediatric nurse. I took care of babies to teens on a medical floor, including oncology patients. It was a teaching hospital, so I was exposed to all members of the health care team, including residents.
At what point did you decide it was time to further your education and become a NP?
From the beginning, I knew I wanted to become a nurse practitioner. Being an NP offered the continuity of care, relationships with patients and families over the long-term, that I desired.
Can you tell us a bit about the education process? Was it hard to get into school? Was the schooling exceptionally stressful or difficult?
I didn’t find my undergraduate program to be particularly stressful or difficult, but the hours were challenging. I enjoyed anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and nutrition, which were some of the prerequisites at the time. However, once in the program I think we were the only program getting up at the same time as the crew team to go do clinicals on top of our in-class hours. My graduate education was extremely intense. It was all school all the time, and intellectually challenging. I think you always feel like you need even more clinical time to become prepared to go out on your own, so you want every minute to count.
What kind of job market are you currently seeing for nurse practitioners?
There are incredible opportunities for NPs right now. With the burgeoning Baby Boomer population, and a shrinking proportion of medical students interested in primary care, there is a shortage of primary care providers in the country, even more so in rural and underserved areas. NPs are the right health care provider to fill this gap.
What are your favorite things about being an NP?
I love the autonomy (in 18 states and the District of Columbia a nurse practitioner can practice independently of a physician and I own my own practice) and the philosophy of care (patient education, advocacy, and compassionate care). As a family nurse practitioner, I enjoy the ability to know entire families over the course of their lives. I’ve also taught other students who then go out and make a difference in their communities. It is meaningful work.
A lot of students consider NP or becoming a Physician, what would be some advice you could offer for students looking to go down this road and making this choice for themselves?
This was a decision that I personally struggled with making while in my RN program. I think it’s a very personal decision. For me, it came down to which philosophy of care did I most embrace, and which discipline offered the most flexibility for my life.
Are there certain things about being a NP that have been difficult that you think students should be prepared for when entering this field of nursing?
Depending on where you work, not everyone may accept you. You also might be part of a system that expects you to provide care for many complex patients in a very short appointment times, which can add stress and not line up with the type of care NPs are trained to provide.
Any final thoughts for the aspiring student?
Follow some folks in the area you’re thinking of working in in the future to find out what the work is really like. It might seem like a long road with many hurdles, requiring much persistence, but in the end, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.