Family nurse practitioners play a crucial role in providing efficient, high-quality care for their patients and improving health in their communities.
Two UAB School of Nursing graduates from the family nurse practitioner master’s specialty track are honing their skills as primary care providers through a one-year residency that has partnered Cahaba Medical Care, Jefferson County Health Department and UAB School of Nursing.
Meghan Pattison, RN, MSN, CRNP, and Sara Johnson, BA, MSN, CRNP, both say they pursued doing a residency so they could gain further on-the-job-training which, in turn, would help them provide even better quality of care to their patients.
“After graduating, I wanted to continue learning and growing as a nurse practitioner in a transitional year before entering my first year of practice,” Johnson said. “This residency allows me to focus on growing and preparing to be a fully functioning nurse practitioner, but with the support and educational opportunities only a residency can provide.”
“Nurse Practitioner residencies as a whole are not very common, and we are fortunate to have these opportunities through the School and its partners. When available, they meet the needs of NPs transitioning from school to their career and practice,” Pattison added. “Because of its focus on underserved populations, this residency meets another great need — it develops people with a heart and desire to help those in need.”
As residents, Pattison and Johnson work alternate weeks between Cahaba Medical Care’s Bessemer, Woodstock or West End clinic and Jefferson County Health Department’s Western Health Department, where they care for medically underserved populations. They also attend regular lectures put on by Cahaba Medical Care, UAB School of Nursing and Christ Health Center, either virtually or on-site at St. Vincent’s East, and attend workshops on topics ranging from applying casts to inserting Nexplanon, a birth control implant that is inserted under the skin.
“The lectures provide a great chance to hone in on topics they learned in school and maybe didn’t see in their clinicals,” said Cahaba Medical Care Nurse Practitioner and CRNP Residency Director Josh Elledge, CRNP. “The residency as a whole gives them another year of practice experience where they’re not alone, but guided by more experienced health care providers. When they have a question, our physicians, our CEO, our CMO and myself are accessible.”
In addition to practice experience, the residency reinforces something Patton and Johnson learned in the UAB School of Nursing, holistically caring for the patient — considering social determinants of health and connecting patients with resources for food, medicine and other necessities.
“At UAB, we strive to educate students that it’s not just disease process that’s important, but the patient as a whole. It’s important to navigate the social determinants of health and approach care with a knowledge and care for the community,” said UAB School of Nursing Instructor and Nurse Practitioner Pathway Director Bryan Combs, MSN, CRNP, FNP-BC, CNL, ATC, who helps the partnership select candidates for the residency. “The more providers you have that understand and can navigate the system for those in need, the better care those underserved populations receive. The better we can care for these people, the better health the community has.”
One of the most important aspects of the residency at Cahaba Medical Care is that it is geared toward nurse practitioners who plan to remain local and can apply what they learn to help the community, Elledge said.
“Our number one goal is finding candidates who plan to stay in the Jefferson County area to practice once they complete the residency because it is important to have providers who know about additional resources our patients need, including food pantries and places they can get free or low-cost medicines,” Elledge said. “Our residents leave as fully equipped care providers who know the community, the population and the resources. The broad and deep scope of learning is powerful, and they’ll be powerful providers.”
Both Pattinson and Johnson plan to stay in the area and want to work with the medically underserved. As a 2017-18 Schweitzer Fellow and Advanced Nursing Education (ANE) Grant funding recipient, Pattison worked with underserved populations throughout her nursing education. Serving patients at Christ Health Center as part of the School’s partnership solidified her heart for patients who may otherwise not have access to care and gave her a baseline of Jefferson County’s resources for families, Pattison said. Johnson also completed clinicals at Christ Health Center as a result of the ANE grant and worked on a project of social determinants of health as an MSN student, which emphasized the importance of understanding and connecting patients with community resources.
They agree the UAB School of Nursing and the support of its faculty more than prepared Pattison and Johnson for the residency, and provided them the tools necessary to care for vulnerable populations. Katie Buys, DNP, MPH, NP-C, and Alice Bristow, MSN, CRNP, CNW, CWCN, FNP-BC, they said, offered encouragement throughout the residency application process and helped give them the confidence they needed to pursue work with underserved populations.
“Dr. Buys and Mrs. Bristow emphasized the important role that family nurse practitioners have in filling health care gaps and caring for patients in unique setting and in ways most health care providers don’t face. This residency’s focus is providing comprehensive family medicine, and it’s helping me expand my understanding of my potential as a family nurse practitioner,” Johnson said. “It is helping me expand my knowledge base in providing efficient, quality care to my future patients, which includes knowledge of the resources available to help my patients become and remain as healthy as possible.”
The residency, Pattison said, is a bonus to their education and sets them up for success in their first year of practice once the residency is complete.
“The knowledge from my courses prepared for my career as a provider, but I also recognized the importance and weight of the work I’d be doing and therefore pursue further training,” Pattison said. “My experience as a Schweitzer Fellow and ANE grant recipient helped me learn more about the Birmingham area, and I hope to use that knowledge and the knowledge I gain in the residency in the long-term in community care. I look forward to applying what I learned at UAB and what I will learn in this residency to care for my patients and invest in the people of our community.”