How did you survive grad school?
I did my 24-month full-time FNP program in 14 months with the love and support of my family and because I was a crazy anal RN just like every other RN worth their salt. My husband was very (ok, not that much, but he came around!) supportive. I have 4 boys (now 17, 16, 15, & 14) who were enough on their own that they understood that Mum had shit to do. The dogs occasionally pooped on the floor and no one blamed me -- that helped! And having a housekeeper once every two weeks was *essential!* I worked full-timeish agency in ER/Critical care, so the money I brought in was excellent. I think the best thing I did during grad school was move away from the ICU (MICU/SICU) and into the ER -- it REALLY improved my assessment skills so that I could use them everyday that I worked and hone them for school. Also, I made sure that when I decided I was not going to do anything, I *didn't* do ANYTHING -- and had extra wine on hand! And learned to make sure to NOT FEEL GUILTY about it. That is hard for nurses.
Why should we go continue up the ladder into grad school?
I think the best thing to remember is that Nurses are Fucking Smart. We know our shit. We didn't become RNs by someone tapping us on the shoulder with the Nightingale Flame. We decided to go to grad school because We Know Our Shit and want to move forward rather than keep wiping ass every day. We know we can HELP these patients. We know what we know -- and the caring aspect of nursing is a HUGE aspect in caring for patients and making them feel better. We know that. That is what brings us to becoming nurse practitioners. We know these patients need what we have as nurses, and we know we're smart enough to deal with the medical diagnosis, testing, interpreting, and care planning. As RNs we rely on this knowledge every day -- we have to... if we don't, and we don't question that weird order from the physician, We Will Get Sued. We already know the basics of being an NP and being a primary care provider as RNs... And some of us take the plunge (and the pay cut! DOH!) to actually BE the Primary Care Provider.
And we are fulfilled. This is the best job in the world!
I also think that if you're already a mom (or dad!), you have a leg up on the non-parental NP students. Mom/Dad knowledge goes a LONG way with nursing and primary care. Don't know what you're doing? Think about it... What would you do as a parent? What would you tell this patient if they were your kid? Your answer is there if you're anything like most of the parents I know.
I’ve heard that grad school grades are important. Are they?
Being an NP isn't hard. School is a bitch until you realize how much you know, and how little you really have to do, in order to get what you want from school. Worrying about grades was the *biggest* waste of my time *ever.* Ever. I went on a BUNCH of interviews and NO ONE cared, or ever even asked!, about my GPA (all said and done and graduated I had a 3.875 -- I was so proud and so pissed and NO ONE WHO WAS GOING TO PAY ME ACTUALLY CARED. Tough lesson for me.). Obviously you can't get shitty grades all the time in school and do well, but no one who goes to grad school does that... so let the grades go.
Learn what you can, whenever you can, and take every opportunity to make mistakes. Do all that while you're a student, because no one will sue you. Sounds harsh, but true -- and Hell -- may as well let that couple hundred $$ you paid for the liability insurance pay off! I'm only half joking here. You are learning under someone else's license and you (obviously!) don't want to get them sued, but if they are a preceptor worth their salt, they won't let you fuck up. Take advantage of it. You have every day during your schooling to learn everything you can, so DO IT. You paid for it! Make those student loans worth it! Don't worry about being perfect -- YOU'RE NOT. You're learning... your preceptors know that, your program director knows that, and your instructors are all over it. Now is the time to do it wrong, learn from y our mistake, and do it right the next time. You won't get this opportunity when you graduate. If some physician you respect says, "hey you should follow me for a day," TAKE THEM UP ON IT. It may not be in the field you want, or are even interested in, but take it. You will make a connection that may be valuable one day when you are on your own -- and you will learn!
If you enjoyed this interview and would like to here more from this NP on my site, please leave a comment. I'm really thinking of inviting her to be a co-blogger..