Healing the Pain as a Nurse Practitioner

Interview with Angela Peters, Nurse Practitioner for Pain Management at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Becoming a helping and healing force in the lives of others was an important goal for Angela Peters. She took that ambition and enrolled in college to become a nurse. Her educational path eventually led her to becoming an adult nurse practitioner and today, she is a pain management nurse practitioner at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern) in Zion, Illinois. She works with cancer patients who are experiencing acute or chronic pain and shares that while treating those who are suffering can be a challenging career path to choose, it is a very rewarding one.

advice for nurse practitioners in their clinical rotation

Peters graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor in Nursing. She then continued her education at East Carolina University where she received her Master of Science in Nursing and became an adult nurse practitioner. Currently, she is enrolled at Easter Kentucky University in the doctoral Nursing Practice program. Peters shares that becoming board certified as an adult nurse practitioner has helped her better understand the intricacies of patient care. She also became board certified in Pain Management and this certification, Peters shares, has helped her better understand the area of pain in patients and helped her become more confident in treating those suffering from acute or chronic pain or from cancer pain.

Peters is currently a Chair for the Advanced Practice Professional Council at CTCA at Midwestern in Zion, Illinois. In this position, Peters has learned more about the structure of her current hospital and laws that affect her career and the careers of other nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Enjoy our interview with Angela Peters, as she discusses how students can get the most out of their NP education program and prepare for their future career.

GradSchools: What does a student need to look for when checking out nurse practitioner programs? What should students consider when choosing a good fit?

  1. Consider accreditation. Is the program CCNE accredited?
  2. Does the school find clinical preceptors or assist with finding clinical preceptors or do you have to find on your own. Having to find on your own has been an ongoing issue for NP students.
  3. How is the program set up, on site? Offsite? Blended? On campus requirements, time commitment, cost and how to finance.

GradSchools: What advice do you have for students in a nurse practitioner program? How can they get the most out of their education and set themselves up for a career?

Current students should be well prepared when attending clinical courses. Read as much as you can, take the content seriously. It’s not about getting through; it is about preparing yourself for patient care. Make a binder and organize with information you come across. Create flowcharts; include immunization schedules, antibiotics commonly prescribed, medications and dosing most frequently used. Include phone numbers so you are readily able to find and give to patients or as reference for yourself. Include anything that you would like to have available as a quick reference.

Embrace every experience. Be the first one to assist or watch. Ask to see things, ask to go with, ask to be involved. Put in extra time if you are able, take in as much as you are able and allowed. Nursing home rounds were not part of my rotation; however, I knew my preceptor did them on the weekends. I went along to get the experience and exposure.

GradSchools: Are there ways to ease the transition from a nurse practitioner program to a career?

Having your resources available will help. Use apps on your phone, use your resource binder you created, use a notebook and write down everything. Be patient with yourself; realize it will take you longer at first to see patients, to chart. Ask questions and know who your resources are for help.

Discuss clear expectations with your employer. How many patients? How will I reach my collaborating physician for assistance if needed? Who will train me? Ask before you accept a position so you both have clear expectations.

GradSchools: For many nurse practitioners, that first clinical rotation can be an intimidating experience. Discuss how a new NP can get the most out of their first job.

Again, be prepared. Have your resources on hand such as pharmacology book, pocket guide for physical assessment and medical diagnosis book. Bring a small notebook, take notes and have your stethoscope, pen, penlight, reflex hammer ready to go!

GradSchools: What tools do you recommend to new nurse practitioners? For example, are there reference books that you have found particularly helpful?

Apps: Epocrates, Medscape

Books: Current medical diagnosis, a physical exam book (Jarvis or Bates is good), book for labs and medications. For medications MPR is good (eMPR.com) is a subscription. 

Tools: stethoscope, pen light, reflex hammer, measuring tape, otoscope, tuning fork, and monofilament test. 

Sign up for Advanced Practice Journals (Clinical Advisor, The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, The Nurse Practitioner).

Sign up for at least 2 professional organizations. For example, your state NP organization and your certifying body (AANP or ANCC). Also consider your specialty area if applicable. 

GradSchools: You’ve mentioned that you found it helpful to communicate with the billing department. What did you learn from them? Would you recommend that all NPs do the same?

I learned about billing codes and contracts, reimbursements from insurance, prior authorizations, I highly recommend any nurse practitioner spend time with the billing department.

GradSchools: What are the 3 things they don’t teach you in nursing school?

  1. How to prioritize your time
  2. How to keep your patient on topic and gather pertinent information to use your time wisely
  3. Negotiation skills when looking for your new position

GradSchools: You have an impressive list of degrees and qualifications. How do you use what you’ve learned to help your patients?

When you are able to gain in depth knowledge in a certain area, it helps you empower your patients by increasing their knowledge about what they are experiencing. Teaching patients and helping them understand what is going on is very rewarding. 

GradSchools: You specialize in pain management. What led you to that particular nurse practitioner specialty?

I know that pain can be challenging and debilitating for individuals. I thought it would be rewarding and it has been. I enjoy bringing pain relief to patients it is challenging, however, very rewarding.

GradSchools: How do you keep growing as an NP? Give us a few tips for how nurse practitioners can keep improving at their jobs.

I attend conferences, read NP journals, talk with patients. You will learn a great deal from your patients (ask them about their disease, what works, what doesn’t, side effects of medications, how their disease effects their life, etc.). You can also continue to learn by attending classes and workshops, taking advantage of continuing medical education credits, reading, shadow other providers when you are able. If you know there is a unique patient coming in, ask other providers if you may tag along, present a patient to your collaborating physician, and ask what they may have done different.

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