Saturday, January 12, 2013

Answering more APN questions

I've gotten a good slew of questions lately (mostly in my 6 week absence...sorry about that!), so I thought I'd do a version 2 of questions answered.  If you missed the first Questions Answered, you can find them HERE.

So today I answer questions from what you always (never?) wanted to know about being an APN,  the process of going through grad school, and poop.  Yes, you read that correctly, poop!

So here goes:

1.) What school did you go to? What degree did you graduate with?

A: I went to Rush University in Chicago, mostly because you can do it completely online.  I'm all for "going to school" in my PJs, sitting on my couch while drinking some hot coffee.  As a bonus, if you are out of state, they will help to coordinate clinical experiences where you live. The program was great (not that I have anything to compare it to) and I thought helped to prepare me as much as school could for the real APN world.
     As far as my degree, I went through the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program.  This provided me a much more specific and hospital related education which was exactly what I wanted.  I had one quarter spent in a primary care setting (100 hours) which I absolutely loved because of the doctor that trained me and the amazing practice she had, but the remaining 600 clinical hours were spent with various services in the inpatient setting.

2.) How long did school take you? Did you work full time or part time while going to undergrad and grad school?

A: I did the BSN for undergrad so that took 4 years. I went to school full time and worked part time my last year(only about 12-20 hours each week...mostly on the 12 hour side).  The first 3 years I only got a job in the summer full time, that way I didn't have to work during school.

For grad school, I did school part time for the first two years while working full time.  The last year of grad school there was no part time option, so I continued to work full time and did school/clinicals full time.  Let me tell you if you have the option to cut back work hours DO SO!!!! I had no life.  My husband and I hardly saw each other. And when we did, our dates were spent as what we lovingly called "Couch Dates" that consisted of us watching a move. Sounds great right...not- it was more like him watching the movie while I had the computer on my lap doing school work : ( There was no hand holding or cuddling involved. Not fun!

3.) How long should I wait until I go back to grad school? 
A: Hmm, this is a great question. I think this answer is different for everyone based on their interests, what degree they are wanting to pursue, and where you are at in life.  I was a bedside nurse in the PICU for 7 years before I got my first APN job.  I think that this was a perfect amount of time for transition, if not a little on the "soonish" side.
     I would definitely not recommend going straight from undergrad to grad school.  There is something to be said about having that bedside experience. It will make you a much, MUCH better APN.  That being said, you have to figure out the timing for yourself.  I've seen a few girls go back to school after a year or 2, and while I thought that was way too soon and they weren't truly developed as much as they could have been as a nurse, they felt fine about it.  And I've seen a handful of women go back once they were in their late 30's and 40's and their kids were older and in school full time, and they thrived.
     So really, it depends on where you are in life, and what you want out of your job.  Certainly there more experience you have as a bedside nurse, the better set up you will be going into your job as an APN.

4.) At what point did you realize you wanted to go into Pediatrics?

A: I always knew that I wanted to work with kids.  At least I think I's all that I can remember wanting to do!  In high school I had the opportunity to take a health professions class that allowed me to go to the community hospital for 2 hours several times a week and essentially job shadow every possible job within the hospital.  From physicians, to surgeons, to nurses, to chaplains, to lab techs, to the cleaning crew, I shadowed them all.  It was then that I decided I absolutely wanted to be a nurse!
     Then, once I was in college, I knew that I loved kids.  I was most excited about my peds rotation, but also equally excited for the Labor and Delivery/Mother Baby rotation.  And I loved both.  Well, I really loved peds, mostly loved L & D and only kinda loved mother/baby.
     But then came time for summer internship right after my junior year in undergrad.  I applied for the Pediatrics with Labor and Delivery as a back up.  Well, I didn't get the Peds.  And I actually didn't truly get the L & D either.  They put me in Mother/Baby with a few days in L & D.  And let me tell you, that was the best summer job I'd ever had!  Not that it was hard to beat washing old men's butts while working the evening shift (3 pm- 11pm) the summer before!
     But once it was all said and done, I got a PICU nursing assistant job at a children's hospital near school, and fell in love. So once I graduated I knew that pediatrics was for me.  And more specifically, the PICU was for me!

*For those of you still in school and trying to decide what you want to go into, just give it time.  Clinicals are an incredible time to really figure out what you like and what you don't.  That being said, just because you don't have a great clinical in one area don't completely rule it out if it is something you think you are passionate about.  It may just be that that particular hospital is not a great fit for you.  If you truly are interested, go to another hospital and ask to do some job shadowing to help make your decision.

5.) Do you see yourself working in the hospital setting long term?

A: Yes!  I can't imagine working outside of the PICU.  That being said, it's not necessarily what I'm going to do the rest of my life.  If there were PICU positions out there that did not require nights then I would probably stick with it, but in the age of APNs getting more and more autonomy in practice, it is now most popular for APNs to provide 24/7 coverage.  BUT- regardless of what I do, I certainly can't see myself working in a general pediatric clinic.  The primary reason that I went back to school to get my acute care certificate as opposed to the primary care certificate was because I didn't want to solely limit myself to the outpatient setting.

6.) You talked a lot about poop early on in your blog, and not as much lately. Does that mean as an APN you don't deal with poop anymore?

A: Oh yes, I did talk a lot about poop didn't I.  If you're new and haven't made it back that far, you can read about it here, here, and here.  Oh there are many others, I just didn't have the time to peruse through them all and link them up.
     But back to the topic.  I must say, being an APN is much less poopy.  I think I have changed all of 3 diapers in my 7 months of being an APN.  And none of them were catstrophies.  Most were just helping the nurse because I was there and had nothing better to do.
     I will say, the other night at work a teenager with Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy who was wearing a diaper told me he needed changed.  There was a big piece of me that wanted to say, OK let me go get help and I'll be right back.  But then I remembered that there were 12 other patients that needed to be seen by me, and this could take awhile.  So I said "OK, I'll go get your nurse and let him know."  Which just felt weird.  Not that I'm missing changing teenager poopy diapers, but I'm still getting used to pushing those things off to the bedside nurses. Afterall, I was there just 7 months ago!

OK, that wraps up a very lengthy Questions Answered part 2.  Keep the questions coming, and I'll keep answering them.  I love having nursing students and grad students read my blog because I know that there were several blogs out there that helped me as I was going through grad school, and this is my way to give back.

So what did you learn today?
1.) Rush University lets you go through all of school in your PJs while sitting on your comfy couch...does school get any better than that!?
2.) Be a bedside nurse for a good long time and enjoy it before becoming and APN...a "good long time" should be defined by you.
3.) Clinicals are a great way to figure out what type of nurse you want to be...but don't let clinicals be the end all, be all.  After all, I never had a clinical in PICU and here I am today, absolutely loving it!
4.) There's no place like home...especially if your home is in the PICU, and not a clinic setting!
5.) Being an APN is a lot less sh...I mean, poopy than being a bedside nurse.  Or at least you deal with a lot less the most literal sense possible, because trust me you still deal with a ton of "people" poop!

I think that's enough questions, answers and lessons learned for one day, don't you!?

Here's to being more enlightened about APNs, and to having a poop-less day : )


  1. Love it! Right now I am going through nursing school to get my BSN & I had thought I would just go straight through to grad school (you might be surprised at how many people are doing that now), but I may wait just a bit. Not because I don't think I'll be ready (which I'm sure I wouldn't be in terms of actualy nursing knowledge) but because I'm just not sure WHAT exactly I want to do. I always though I wanted to open my own practice, but the more I see that side of it, the more I think I'd be bored out of my we'll see. I know that I love your blog though, it's been a great eye opener for me. It seems exciting & touching all at the same time. Keep the posts coming & thank you so much for posting on my blog!! :)

  2. I agree with you on the time of going to grad school. I also think that it depends on the area. I did general peads straight after, and it was okay as we did have very little peads in my undergrad program. My other friend did psychiatric straight after undergrad. But other programs they require you to have 2 or 5 years experience, as they say that nursing has to be learned before you are clinically ready to take the next step! I sort of agree with both! :) I would not like to go back and work at the same time again either. It is just to much! And I only studied full time and worked part time!