(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
White, a sophomore at New Madrid County Central High School and the daughter of David and Cheryl White of Matthews, is interested in becoming a nurse practitioner and through ACES and the Southeast Missouri Area Health Education Center she got an in-depth look at the field and at medical careers in general this summer.
First, White and other students from across Missouri spent a week at the University of Missouri --Columbia where they learned the clinical and educational aspects of health care. The second part of her introduction paired her with a nurse practitioner for a look at the job.
It is an amazing experience said White. "My brain is on overload," she said with a smile.
There was a lot for the teen to absorb. During her weeklong residential camp at the University, she and other participants had the opportunity to tour the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine. They listened to lectures and learned how to give shots, put in IV lines, check reflexes and more.
And there were the cadavers. "We watched the students and got to look into the bodies," recalled White. "It was really cool."
She came back from camp with even more enthusiasm for medicine and a decision to look more closely at the family nurse practitioner's role in medicine. White was teamed with Nina Hill, MSN, RN, BC - family nurse practitioner at the Southeast Missouri Health Network.
"I like it," she said about the work of a family nurse practitioner. "You are one-on-one caring for patients and you deal with everything from pediatrics to older adults. Basically you can do almost everything a physician does except prescribe narcotics."
According to Hill, even more nurse practitioners are needed. That is why she volunteered to work with the teen through the AHEC Career Enhancement Program.
"I think it is really good that we get young people interested in the nursing profession," said Hill. "It is a tough profession and we need to do good recruiting. I have really enjoyed this, it has been energizing."
Introducing her job to White is an opportunity to explain a profession many people don't understand, said Hill.
A relatively new field of medicine, nurse practitioners first came on the medical scene in 1972 in Colorado. Today they are an integral part of the health care provided through the Southeast Missouri Health Network.
Nurse practitioners collaborate with physicians who review the charts and provide advice on difficult cases. While some nurse practitioners work in specialty areas, others, like Hill, are family nurse practitioners dealing with patients "birth through death," she explained.
"We've seen some interesting things this week. You can say this job is never boring. It keeps challenging you," added Hill during a break in their rounds at the New Madrid Southeast Missouri Health Network's clinic.
One of the challenges for White during her shadowing experience was it kept her on her feet for most of the 30 hours she was assigned to follow Hill. She laughed and said she knows if she becomes a nurse practitioner she will need a good pair of comfortable shoes.
Shoes are just a part of what she learned though. "I saw how the nursing compassion becomes a part of the medical role," said White.
Hill said she sought to provide a realistic look at the field. "I want to give her encouragement to achieve her goal. She needs to know it is not an easy road but well-worth the struggle."
Thanks to the AHEC Career Enhancement Program that struggle is a little easier for students. Not only does the program introduce young people to medical fields but those who decide to continue can take part in more learning events and eventually seek scholarships for their schooling. Those who receive full scholarships agree to practice in rural, under-served areas such as Southeast Missouri, for five years following their graduation.
Looking back at her introduction into medicine, White said she is even more determined to study to become a family nurse practitioner. " It really gives you an idea if you want to go into a medical field. I would encourage others to do this if they wanted to purse something in the medical field. I made some friends and met some interesting people, like the head of the medical program at the University, and I had a lot of fun."
For more information about the SEMO AHEC program call 1-800-788-2444 or information is available at www.muhealth.org/ ~ahec/muahed.shtml.