NP credits colleagues for trip of a lifetime- Dean - WI

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Published on January 09, 2017

NP credits colleagues for trip of a lifetime

Time is a precious commodity, especially for those in a small group. Just ask Nurse Practitioner Laura Carney at SSM Health Dean Medical Group in Whitewater, a three-physician practice. Laura will never forget how her physician colleagues there went the extra mile for her so she could participate in a bike trek across America with her family. For 15 years, she has been the only NP at this small clinic, so having her away on a long trip was a big deal.  

In 2010, my family decided to bike across the country. First, my son and husband decided to go. Then my daughter decided she was going to be part of it. They said, “You need to do this. We need to do this as a family.” But I couldn’t possibly get the time off to do that. Then I thought, they’re going to have this great adventure and really accomplish something, and I’m not going to be part of it. They’re going to talk about it for the rest of their lives and I’m not. So I approached the physicians here. Without hesitation, they said, “You have to go do that with them. We’ll figure this out.” It took us 67 days to ride 4,267 miles.        
                                                            Laura Carney, NP, center
You remember that exact number?
You bet I do! I grunted it out across mountain ranges. I am very fortunate to be where I am. You have to be comfort­able with the physicians that you work with, and they with you. They need to understand where your limits are and that you will come to them when you need help. Our physicians are very supportive and very eager to help. When I come in and say I have this issue, I never ever feel like they are being imposed upon. I feel fortunate about that. I live in Janesville but I have driven to Whitewater for 15-plus years primarily because of the people I work with.
What is your practice like?
I see men and women for their primary care concerns. I defer to my physician colleagues for my complex and very elderly patients. For a lot of people, it’s the reassurance that they are actually healthy and OK. They are sure something is terri­ble, awful wrong. You talk about normal symptoms of things and they are quickly reassured that something is not wrong.
Why be an NP as opposed to an RN?
It’s the best of both worlds—the patient education, which is the nurse kind of role. But I also get to diagnose and treat within my area of expertise. That has expanded over time. It’s always amazing to me to look at what I did in a day and the depth which I am capable of doing. Clearly, there are limits to what I am comfortable with and am educated to do.
I worked at Mercy as an RN for many years. The fastest way to do something different was to finish out my bachelor’s. In the process, I took a class, From Novice to Expert. It introduced me to the role of an NP. It sounded very appealing and so I pursued that. I was accepted into a small class of nine people.
What I love about the role is the teaching aspect of it. Being able to help somebody understand, maybe sometimes in a way that physicians don’t have as much the time, with how many people are on their schedule and the more serious nature of the things that they’re seeing people for. I’m trying to do preventative care and help people understand how much control they do have with their lifestyle and choices that they make. Maybe things could be better and we might not have to always use medication. Or preventing it next time so they don’t end up with such a severe problem because they waited too long to come in.
I get to do travel medicine for the clinic, so that again is a lot of teaching or preparing people so they have a good experience when they travel. They have the immu­nization that they need or preemptively not have problems or intercept a problem before it becomes a bigger issue.
What kind of qualities do NPs need to be successful?
You need to be compassionate, a good listener. You have to be able to relate to that person on their level and explain things. But I think if you are a caring individual and you like helping others, it’s a good role. You need to be curious about disease processes and be ready for the rigors of the education.
I have a student coming for the first time today. It’s always good to see their enthu­siasm. It’s reassuring to realize how far you came since you first went through school.
The role, I absolutely love, surrounded by good staff and great physicians. We’re here for each other. It’s so important. There is life beyond these walls. We have families and we support each other that way. They cared about me and cared about something that’s important to me [bike adventure]. I could drive a lot less and work in Janesville but I know what I have here.


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