VSU Celebrates Nurse Practitioner Week

November 16, 2011

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Celebrates Nurse Practitioner Week


VALDOSTA -- Leanna Lewis, 31, entered Valdosta State University’s Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP) Program in January 2010. She hopes to graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing degree in December and gain certification in her chosen field.

“Since [I was] a small child, I have wanted to go into the nursing field,” said the Hortense native, who graduated from Ware County Magnet School in 1998. “I thoroughly enjoy helping others, and this is a career that is fulfilling and rewarding. I practiced as an RN [registered nurse] for several years before returning to school in hopes of receiving my ANP. I wanted to further my education in order to provide advance nursing practice skills to those in need. I hope one day soon that my community can benefit from my services by offering health promotion, disease prevention, and disease management.”

The daughter of Jackie and Leila Thrift hopes to work as a nurse practitioner in a family medicine practice after graduation.

In 2002, Lewis earned registered nurse status and an associate’s degree in nursing from South Georgia College. Seven years later, she graduated from Georgia Southern University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. She has worked as an assistant shift care coordinator/emergency room nurse at Satilla Regional Medical Center in Waycross (2002-2005) and as director of nursing at Pain Associates of South Georgia/South Georgia Surgery Center in Waycross (2004-2008) and is currently employed as an emergency room/intensive care unit nurse and charge nurse, as needed, at Bacon County Hospital in Alma.

Through Saturday, Nov. 19, VSU is celebrating National Nurse Practitioner Week, a time “to celebrate the wonderful work of nurse practitioners across the nation, build awareness around the critical role of the nurse practitioner, and remind lawmakers of the importance of allowing nurse practitioners to practice to the full extent of their experience and education,” said Dr. J. Myron Faircloth, instructor in the College of Nursing and a board certified family nurse practitioner.

VSU’s Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP) Program prepares advanced practice nurses as primary care providers to manage the health of individuals and families from 13 years of age and up. The program places an emphasis on health promotion, illness prevention, and management of acute and chronic illness; provides leadership; and promotes use of evidence-based practice in the delivery of quality health care services for adults and their families. Graduates are prepared to be recognized as advanced practice nurses by the Board of Nurse Examiners and to take the adult nurse practitioner certification exams.

Nationally, the first nurse practitioners were educated at the University of Colorado in 1965. VSU’s program was started in 2007, Faircloth said, and, to date, 19 students have graduated from the program. Currently, there are 28 students studying to become nurse practitioners at VSU, he added.

Sharon McDade joined the staff of Dr. Willy Saurina’s office on North Ashley Street in Valdosta in February 2011, having earned board certification as an adult nurse practitioner a month earlier. The 39-year-old divorced mother of two boys said that she encourages anyone interested in becoming a nurse practitioner to go for it.

“It’s just the best thing you can do,” she said. “There are so many avenues you can go into. It’s the one job you can do that gives you the most variety. I learn something new every single day.”

Nurse practitioners practice in rural, urban, and suburban communities, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. They practice in many types of settings, including clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care sites, private physician or nurse practitioner practices, nursing homes, schools, colleges, and public health departments. Nurse practitioners specialize in many areas, such as family health or oncology or mental health, and they often practice in sub-specialty areas, such as dermatology or neurology or sports medicine.

McDade first graduated from VSU in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and joined the staff at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia. In 1997, she went to work in various departments, including the cardiac intensive care unit, at South Georgia Medical Center. A decade later, she graduated from Florida State University with a Master of Science in Nursing, emphasis on case management. She then entered the Adult Nurse Practitioner Program at VSU, where she also taught part-time for a year.

The 1990 graduate of Berrien High School said that caring for a loved one with a chronic illness resulted in her becoming a nurse. Before that, she dreamed of either working as a neurosurgeon or with Shamu.

“I love being a nurse,” she said. “Is it stressful? Yes. Is it draining? Absolutely. But it is the most rewarding thing anyone can do. When I was a bedside nurse, I could not imagine myself doing anything different. Now that I am a nurse practitioner, I know this is what I was always meant to do.”

At Saurina’s office, McDade assesses, diagnoses, treats, and manages her patients’ health problems and needs. She also emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention. She works with both traditional family medicine patients and HIV/AIDS patients and is in charge of the office’s infusion service, which allows patients who need intravenous medication to receive treatment outside the hospital setting. She recently assumed the role of quality improvement manager at the office, reviewing data and government mandates and using the information to make the practice better for the patients.

As leaders in primary and acute health care, McDade said nurse practitioners play many roles -- provider, mentor, educator, researcher, and administrator. She said that while she enjoys many of the same privileges as medical doctors, she believes, as nurses are trained to do, in taking a holistic approach to medicine, focusing on the whole person when treating specific health problems.

VSU was authorized by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to offer a nursing program in 1967, effective fall quarter of 1968. Development of the program was facilitated by a request from the leaders of Pineview General Hospital, which later became South Georgia Medical Center, for help preparing registered nurses for the region.

The College of Nursing offers five different academic programs, including bachelor and master’s degrees in nursing and an associate of applied science degree in dental hygiene. The Master of Science in Nursing degree prepares students for advanced nursing practice and to be leaders in the nursing profession. The college currently offers an Adult Nurse Practitioner Program and is developing a Clinic Nurse Leader Program.

“I have the privilege of working with excellent faculty, staff, and students, but the most significant aspect of my position is the knowledge that I come to work each day involved in the most influential and respected of all health professions,” noted Dr. Anita Hufft, dean, on the College of Nursing website. “In so many ways, the profession of nursing touches people’s lives and profoundly impacts the well-being of our communities, our nation, and beyond.”

VSU’s College of Nursing is located in S. Walter Martin Hall, 1300 N. Patterson St. For more information, please call (229) 333-5959, email nursing@valdosta.edu or visit www.valdosta.edu/nursing.

Nurse Practitioner Facts

• An estimated 9,500 new NPs completed their academic programs in 2010-2011.
• 18 percent of NPs practice in rural or frontier settings.
• 43 percent of NPs hold hospital privileges; 15 percent have long-term care privileges.
• 96.5 percent of NPs prescribe medications, averaging 20 prescriptions a day.
• NPs hold prescriptive privileges in all 50 states.
• The early-2011 mean full-time NP base salary was $91,310.
• 60 percent of NPs see three to four patients per hour; 7 percent see over five patients per hour.
• The average NP is female (96 percent) and 48 years old; she has been in practice for 12.8 years as a family NP (49 percent).
Source: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners