According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), nurse practitioners (NPs) have been assessing patients, ordering and interpreting tests, making diagnoses and initiating and managing treatment plans — including prescribing medications — for almost 50 years. To raise awareness about what these dedicated professionals do, AANP celebrates National Nurse Practitioner Week annually (November 10-16, 2019).

How do these dedicated professionals view their roles? Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Leah Kann, who has been with the Neurosurgery Department for eight years, and Family Nurse Practitioner Emma Venteicher, who is new to the department, shared their perspectives.

What made you become a Nurse Practitioner?

Leah Kann, APRN, CNP

Kann (pictured at left): I had been a pediatric nurse for eight years and had the opportunity to work with a lot of really great nurse practitioners. I knew I wanted to be able to do more for my patients and their families, so becoming a nurse practitioner was the next step.

Venteicher: I became a nurse practitioner because I wanted to participate in the longitudinal care of patients and their families. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, you're given the unique opportunity to see patients throughout their lifespan, from children to the elderly, all along the care continuum. I have enjoyed the intellectual challenges of caring for complex patient conditions. When I was younger, I had a nurse practitioner who cared for me, and I knew that every time I went into the hospital or into the clinic and she was there, that I was going to be cared for competently. She was so knowledgeable about her practice and so kind, and I have always wanted to be that person for someone else.

Why do you think it's an important career?
Kann: so much of healthcare these days is team-based and it's important to have nurses and nurse practitioners on the team. Our background is based on a nursing model, which is different than a medical model. We approach decisions from a different point of view.

Venteicher: the world is incredibly diverse and opportunities for nurse practitioners are constantly expanding. As an FNP, you have so many unique collaborative opportunities with other providers and care services to better care for your patients, as well as participate in process and performance improvement.

What do you love about it?
Kann: I love getting to work with patients and their families. I get to work in both the outpatient and the inpatient settings, so I get to see the kids throughout their whole experience. I like forming relationships with the families and being there for them when they need someone.

Emma Venteicher, MS, FNP

Venteicher (pictured at left): I love interacting with patients. My goal as a nurse practitioner is to be a competent, compassionate provider trusted by patients. I want to develop a practice that is patient-centered and reflects their values, while creating comprehensive care plans that translate into more holistic, dynamic and integrated patient care.

What are the challenges?
Kann: I work in a great setting and with a lot of great people. I feel like when I began in this role, it was challenging trying to explain it to families. I think there is a lot of talk about nurse practitioners these days, so I haven't run into that as much recently.

Venteicher: there is so much to know! It is amazing how different each patient is and how each person has a different story. That is challenging because you can never know everything. That is also why collaborative relationships are so incredibly important. It is never wrong to say, “Let me check on that,” or “I'm not entirely sure.” It has been a great opportunity to work with so many knowledgeable and supportive providers

What advice would you give someone considering the profession?
Kann: being a nurse practitioner is amazing. It’s also flexible. There are so many roles you can have with this degree that even if you don't find the right place right away (like me), there's always another area to try.

Venteicher: becoming an NP is such a great opportunity to be both collaborative and independent as a practitioner. There is always a learning curve from being a nurse to becoming a nurse practitioner, but knowledge of nursing concepts in patient care is invaluable.