Healthy Mama: A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner

Most of us who have called for a doctor’s appointment have, at one time or another, been asked if we’d like to see a nurse practitioner. But not everyone is clear on exactly what a nurse practitioner does — since they seem to be a hybrid of both nurse and doctor. So we interviewed Nurse Practitioner Staci Gathright at the Rogers Medical Center and asked her for specifics on the role nurse practitioners play in healthcare.

Staci is a fellow mom and her answers here are very insightful. Be sure to read her answer to the last question, when we asked what one thing women could do to have a healthier lifestyle. Her answer is SO good and it’s one that we all truly need to remember.

staci-gathright-pic.jpgWhere are you from, and what is your educational background?

I was born in Little Rock and lived there until I was in the 8th grade. I moved to Bentonville at that time and have been in NWA ever since. I received a BA in Psychology and a BS in Nursing from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. I went on to get my Masters and Family Nurse Practitioner from UAMS in Little Rock.

Most people know that nurse practitioners can write prescriptions. So what are the main differences between a nurse practitioner and a doctor?

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with advanced education and clinical training. As a family nurse practitioner I can provide a wide range of preventive and acute health services to all age groups. My training was an extension of my undergraduate training rooted in the philosophy of nursing rather than based on the medical model physicians are trained on. In my training, a holistic view of health was emphasized. I am able to evaluate, diagnose and treat health problems as well as emphasize health promotion. I’m a part of a wonderful clinic where I have physicians around me for support if I need a resource.

What types of illnesses do you most commonly treat?

I treat a variety of illness. I started at the Rogers Medical Center in the height of cold season, so I was seeing a lot of cough, cold, flu illness. Now that I am building a practice, I am seeing a little of everything. I still see everyday illnesses, but I am doing more wellness visits for children and annual exams for females.

Do nurse practitioners get any specific training in treating children?

In the family practitioner program, time and training is devoted to every age group across the lifespan. My family practitioner program devoted an entire semester to treating pediatrics. There are also more specialized programs for Pediatric Nurse practitioners who see patients from birth to 18 years old.

Why do you feel that the role of nurse practitioner is the best fit for you?

I worked as a nurse for seven years before I became a nurse practitioner. I loved nursing from the day I started and could never see myself in any other career. There came a day that I thought I could take my career in nursing to the next level and, with the support of my family, was able to make it happen. Because time with my family is so important to me, becoming a nurse practitioner was a very logical choice in comparison to other medical professions.

How do you try to make patients feel at ease during an exam?

I honestly just try to treat everyone like I would want to be treated. I try to listen to patients and respect their time. As a mother and a patient myself, I understand that when you make an appointment — whatever the concern — it is important enough to take time out of your normal routine.

What is a great day at the office like?

A great day in the office would definitely be a day that I felt like I made a difference in someone else’s day. Helping people get better and/or giving good news is nice, and having a day where we stayed on schedule and had some laughter would make it great.

What is the toughest part of your job?

By far the toughest part of my job has been giving devastating news. My background is Labor and Delivery and for the most part was a part of one the happiest occasions in a family’s life. Now that I am seeing patients across the lifespan, I have had to give some bad news to some families. This has been a very hard transition for me and something I am adjusting to.

As a mother, do you feel that you worry less about your kids because of your medical training, or do you worry more about them because you “know too much”?

I think that I do a little of both. I find myself now not worrying as much about the little stuff as I did before. I am more patient with fevers, runny noses, and coughs than I used to be…probably too patient sometimes. But I do think I worry about more serious things more than I used to. Especially when I was in my training, I was diagnosing my family members with odd/rare illnesses.

When you’re not working in the clinic or busy being a mom, what do you like to do with your free time?

I have a large family in the area, and we spend a lot of our spare time with family. We are huge Razorback fans, so we will get together anytime we can cheer on the Hogs. If I can get a minute to do whatever I want, I do love to scrapbook. Those moments are few and far between…I am working on my 5-year-old’s first birthday page! 🙂

If you could give women one piece of advice that would help them live a healthier lifestyle, what would it be?

If I could tell women one thing, it would be to take the time to take care of yourself. I see so many women that will put off taking care of themselves because they devote so much time to everyone else. I would encourage them to set aside time for themselves because they are worth it. I even struggled personally feeling that I could not take time to exercise or even scrapbook because I felt selfish. Being active and finding something that brings you joy are two very important things.

Staci Gathright practices at the Rogers Medical Center located in the Mercy Physicians Plaza just off Interstate 540. To schedule an appointment with her, call 479-338-5555 or visit the clinic online by clicking here.