Pediatric nurse practitioner wanted to play a bigger role in her neurosurgical patients’ care

November 8 – 14, 2020 is National Nurse Practitioner Week


Leah Kann, RN, CPNP, is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner (CPNP). She works with patients whose ages range from months up to their early 20s at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN. She is one of more than 290,000 nurse practitioners licensed in the United States.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nurse practitioners provide a full range of services, such as ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests; diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions; prescribing medications and treatments; and managing overall patient care. They conduct more than one billion patient visits each year.

Serve as a bridge
Leah loves being a nurse practitioner. “I feel that we get really involved with our patients’ care,” she said. “We know them and their families and can help advocate for them. We serve as a bridge to other specialists when needed and help fill other gaps in their care.”

After seven years as a registered nurse, Leah decided to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner. “I wanted to have more independence and take a bigger role in my patients’ healthcare,” she said. “When I worked in the clinic, I felt I could do more for my patients if I furthered my education.” She completed her Master of Nursing at the U of M and has been a CPNP for nine years.

New world of possibility
The role has opened a new world of possibilities for Leah, who wanted more independence as a provider. “I write orders and prescriptions, make referrals, and see patients independently,” she said.

Leah works with both inpatients (in the hospital) and outpatients (in the clinic). “I do patient workups in the clinic to see if they require surgery,” she explained. “I see them after surgery in the hospital to make sure they get pain medication and everything else they need. When they’re discharged, they usually come back and see me for post-operative care.” Leah also sees patients with issues that don’t require surgery.

Glad I did it
For anyone considering the nurse practitioner role, Leah noted that life is always busy, either with work, family, friends or even pandemics. “Going back to school certainly adds more stress,” she said. “But there will never be a perfect time to take on something like this. If you want it, you can make it work. I’m really glad I did.”

In Minnesota, it requires an extra three years of education to qualify for the role. “I was in the last class at the U that was able to become a nurse practitioner with a master’s degree,” she said. These days, candidates need to complete a doctoral program.

Despite her loving the independence of being a nurse practitioner, Leah emphasizes how closely she works with the neurosurgeons and neurosurgery residents. “I bring a nurse’s background to patient care, which adds an important dimension,” she said. “I also enjoy teaching when residents are working with us. It helped build my confidence at the beginning of my career as a nurse practitioner. There is a lot that I can teach them now.”

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