Art & Science: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

By May 22, 2019Blog

By: Jolene Cannady

There is an old saying that medicine is equal parts art and science. This could not be truer for nursing. My name is Jolene Cannady and I am a proud nurse practitioner (NP). Nursing entered my life during a time when I was lost. I am a PTSD, depression, and suicide survivor from rape trauma in my younger years. In high school, I was a C to D average kid because I was in a dark place and very lost. I had dreams of becoming a medical doctor, but I was not able to get into university with my C average grades. This led me to Confederation College’s nursing program, where I met a professor who changed my life forever. Her name is Jan Seeley and in her, I saw the art and science of medicine come alive. She believed in me and mentored me, seeing past the darkness that surrounded me. In 1998 I graduated with my diploma in nursing, then wrote my certification exam to become a registered nurse. I remember my dad telling me “you are going to go places.”

However, I still did not fully believe in myself and was still struggling with the dark places. It took me thirteen years before I returned to school and obtained my bachelor’s in nursing, then my master’s as an adult-geriatric nurse practitioner, and in one month I will walk the stage and receive my Doctor of Nursing Practice. I truly believe the adversities in my life have allowed me to be a better provider. Each day I meet people from all walks of life, and I am able to step back and listen without judgement. I understand that all it takes, sometimes, is to have one person who will listen. My journey also led me to caring for veterans for two years as a nurse practitioner and doing my doctoral research on building an education program to teach providers on how to care for veterans with PTSD. My past mental health journeys help me to care for people with a more open mind and heart.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

If you are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, you will need to first obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing from a university and write a certification exam and obtain your license as a registered nurse. After you have obtained your licensure I recommend working at the bedside as a registered nurse for at least 3-5 years prior to returning to school to become a nurse practitioner. To become a nurse practitioner, you either need your master’s or your Doctor of Nursing Practice with a focus on the nurse practitioner role. After graduating you will need to write a certification exam through AANP (this is who I did mine through) or ANCC, which will allow you to use the title nurse practitioner. From there, depending on state, you will need to obtain licensure as a nurse practitioner.

To obtain licensure some states have full practice authority, where NP’s are allowed to work independently without physician supervision, and other in other states you will need to have a supervising physician. In some states NP’s own their own practices, which is beneficial in rural areas where medical care is difficult to obtain. As an NP I have an advanced degree in nursing and am able to perform physical exams, diagnosis disease processes and treat accordingly, order lab tests and medications, interpret labs and imaging, monitor chronic health issues, educate patients on diseases, and perform some procedures. We work alongside other healthcare professionals to ensure patients get the highest quality of care possible.

For two years I worked as an NP at a VA medical center beside veterans, many whom had PTSD. I now work in local long-term care facilities, as I realized many veterans were receiving care out in the civilian sector and needed a provider who could understand their special needs. My own past personal experiences with PTSD & depression help me to care for those who are struggling with mental illness. In healthcare it is well known that we are in desperate need of providers who have understanding or specialize in mental health.

As an NP you could focus specifically on mental health by becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner or you could specialize in various other areas (family, pediatric, neonatal, geriatric). The sky is the limit in nursing, and it is an amazing career. We need people with a passion for caring for others. Come and join me in a profession that will change your life.

One Comment

  • Andrea J says:

    I appreciate the passion you have for nursing. I do too, and continue to believe nurses in patient care roles should be greatly valued in our health care system. I also agree 100% that new RNs should gain several years of inpatient experience. It upsets me to see how many job posting in clinics are seeking Nurses with a minimum of one year or less experience. I believe experienced Nurses are no longer valued. I am personally experiencing this phenomenon now. I have 34 years of experience, and cannot find anyone willing to pay a wage reflective of this. What do you think?

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