“I have strong reservations against nurse practitioners.” This statement was one of the first things that came out of my physician’s mouth when I told her I was a pediatric nurse practitioner. I was her patient sitting on the exam table, fully clothed while she clicked away on a computer, typing in questions I had just answered on a survey. She never touched me or laid a stethoscope on me, yet she claimed she knew more than a nurse practitioner due to her many years of schooling. At this point, I thought that I should probably change physicians and run out of the office.
People always have problems relating to me, “the nurse.” Even worse is the phrase, “practitioner,” which sometimes brings about a furrowed brow, a blank stare, and a look of confusion. Next inevitably comes the question, “are you practicing to be a nurse?”
I’ve been a pediatric nurse practitioner for the past 10 years, and in those 10 years, I have had to educate friends, family, and even my own personal medical doctor about the nurse practitioner role. Though the profession has been around for the last 40 years, many people have never heard of a nurse practitioner, or just do not understand.
“Basically, if a nurse and a doctor were to procreate, the end result would be me. Well not really, but I am a cross between a nurse and a doctor.” That’s how I describe my role at dinner parties. A flurry of questions is sure to follow. A woman at a recent dinner party came up to me and said, “I have a nephew that has werewolf syndrome. Do you know how he got it, or where it came from?” I think about it for a second, and say, “did he maybe watch too many Twilight movies?”
The greatest thing about being a nurse practitioner has been the amazing super power I have acquired; the power of assessment and diagnosis. It is difficult to turn off, and I often find myself assessing and attaching a diagnosis to almost every person I see. A child walking in the park on his tip toes, my brain calculates and rules out cerebral palsy, linking the issue most likely to prematurity and tight tendons. The woman at the grocery store with a crooked smile, probably a stroke or signs of Bells Palsy. During winter I can detect a croupy cough a mile away. You never forget the cough of a child that sounds like a barking seal, and automatically think “cool mist, cool mist!”
When my spanish-speaking patients come into my clinic and see me, they call me “doctora!” I correct them and say, “nurse practitioner,” but they still insist on calling me “doctora!” Translated, “doctora” means “female doctor, or a female who works with medicine.” The term is usually given to St. Teresa, who is the patron saint of sickness. Perhaps the only people who really understand me and what I do are my patients. They know I am there to treat their medical issues, and to help guide them through their illnesses.
Overall, the last 10 years of my life as a pediatric nurse practitioner have proven to be interesting both personally and professionally. Though I’ve changed my physician to someone who is more nurse practitioner-friendly, I do still tend to get asked peculiar medical questions at dinner parties. I accept my spanish title of “doctora” with pride, and enjoy practicing my super powers of assessment and diagnosis.