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Pitt Nursing Celebrates National Nurse Practitioner Week

Happy National Nurse Practitioner Week!

Pitt Nursing is honored to recognize these incredible healthcare providers and raise awareness of the powerful role they play in ensuring general health and well-being! More than 355,000 NPs are licensed to practice in the United States, some of those are proud Pitt Nursing graduates. This skilled group of professionals bring clinical expertise, leadership, and vital solutions to the challenges our health care system faces and are rising to meet the needs of patients in all communities and practice settings.

“For me, being a nurse practitioner is about being a patient educator and advocate,” said Cynthia Chew, coordinator of Pitt Nursing’s Nurse Practitioner Program. “The focus of nurse practitioner practice is patient-centered, wholistic care. The theme of this year’s National Nurse Practitioner Week – “Rising to Meet the Patient’s Needs” – embodies that sentiment.  Although we prescribe treatments and provide care like our physician colleagues, NPs view health promotion and disease treatment through a patient-centered, nursing lens that takes into account all the pieces of a person’s life that can affect health.  Approaching health from this angle feels more natural to me because it results in quality care that meets each patient’s specific needs.”

Cynthia Chew, DNP, CPNP-PC, coordinates Pitt Nursing’s nurse practitioner DNP program which consists of six areas of concentration: adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, family (individual across the lifespan), neonatal, pediatric primary care, and psychiatric mental health. Pitt also offers a post-graduate certificate to become an acute care PNP.

“Supporting families through their child's various stages of growth and development and watching youth bloom into young adults is rewarding,” said Brenda Cassidy, associate professor and the program director of the pediatric primary care NP program. “This is truly a job that I love, and I feel honored and privileged to be one small part of their journey.” 

Brenda Cassidy, DNP, is not only an associate professor at Pitt Nursing, but has worked at the same pediatric practice as a nurse practitioner for 25-years.

“It’s allowed me to foster relationships with families and youth,” said Dr. Cassidy. “What I love most about children is their resilience and ability to be positive in some of the most difficult times.”

Dr. Cassidy said the PNP program at Pitt Nursing includes theory and clinical courses devoted to the adolescent and young adult age group. Part of the programing at Pitt teaches future nurse practitioners how to advocate for vulnerable youth in all settings, since teens have unique issues and vulnerabilities that must be addressed in primary care. She says that vital education, and role these nurse practitioners play, will improve health equity, and reduce negative health outcomes in this age group

“Our partnership with the Department of Adolescent Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh allows our students the opportunity to precept with providers who specialize in the care of adolescents and young adults,” she said. “The students work with preceptors who care for vulnerable youth in various settings that reach LGBTQIA+, homeless, incarcerated teens and youth with mental health problems. They will be better equipped to support families and teens navigate some very difficult transitions and promote resilience in vulnerable youth.”

From the youth to babies: neonatal nurse practitioners manage the healthcare of high-risk infants within families and children up to two years of age.

“For me, being a nurse practitioner is all about gaining and developing the ability to take my bedside skills and knowledge to the next level,” said Jenna Bench, assistant professor, and the neonatal nurse practitioner program coordinator. “As an NP, I'm able to not only recognize problems with my patients, but I also work with a multidisciplinary team to determine the next steps towards reaching solutions for them. Being an NP is about being a problem-solver, thinking quickly to help my patients attain the best possible outcomes.”

Jenna Bench, DNP, CRNP said she became interested in this field while completing her high school education, and decided she wanted to help take care of sick, fragile babies and watch them thrive.

“Neonatal patients are undoubtedly the most resilient humans on the planet, and it has been my honor to take care of them for the better part of a decade,” she said.

While several nurse practitioner roles provide care to a specific age group, restricting employment and professional opportunities, the role of the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is endless.

“It is such a unique role in that PMHNPs can work with patients of all ages and can work in a variety of settings including but certainly not limited to inpatient psychiatric units, emergency departments, outpatient settings including private practices, jails or prisons, on medical-surgical floors doing consultation/liaison work, and in addiction psychiatry, among others,” said Brayden Kameg, assistant professor and coordinator of the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program at Pitt.

Brayden Kameg, DNP, PMHNP-BC said she finds this area of concentration extremely rewarding.

“While I do some inpatient work, I primarily work on an outpatient basis where I see patients longitudinally over time. Some of my patient relationships span years, and I am very grateful for the privilege to be able to work with patients as they recover from mental health problems and to witness the growth and resilience of the patients that I work with.”

The Importance of National NP Week

National Nurse Practitioner Week is held every year to celebrate and honor these exceptional health care providers. The role of the nurse practitioner has been around for decades, but Dr. Chew said many patients and healthcare professionals don’t quite understand what they do as healthcare providers

“Highlighting our rigorous education, the innovative quality improvement projects we lead, and top-notch patient care we provide is crucial to advancing our profession,” she said. “This is extremely important in states like Pennsylvania where nurse practitioners have restricted licensure.  As NPs, we are trained to independently provide care to our patients but the antiquated laws in PA prevent us from practicing at our full scope.  This ultimately hurts our patients by reducing their access to care.  NPs frequently practice in marginalized and rural communities.  Having restricted licensure prevents us from doing the most good for the most people.  By recognizing and promoting the valuable role NPs play in the healthcare system during National Nurse Practitioner Week, we have the opportunity to influence key stakeholders in policy reform to advocate for us and change the restrictive legislation.”

That’s why this week was created: to remind lawmakers across the country of the importance of removing outdated barriers to practice, so NPs will be allowed to practice to the full extent of their experience and education. Because the job itself isn’t going anywhere: the U.S. government estimates employment of nurse practitioners will increase by 35% in 2024.

Not only is the role in high demand, but it’s a good one. U.S. News and World Report ranks the nurse practitioner role at No. 1 for the Best Job in Healthcare and No. 2 on their list of 100 Best Jobs.

“Being an NP is a challenging and rewarding career,” said Dr. Chew. “NP practice brings the best aspects of being a nurse to the next level.  We build on the foundation of strong critical thinking skills and the patient-centered, wholistic care model taught in nursing programs to provide comprehensive care to our patients, promote health and well-being, and diagnose and manage acute and chronic health problems.  As a primary care pediatric nurse practitioner, I am privileged to be a part of nurturing children and their families as they grow and develop.  My population focus allows to me to work with the patients I enjoy the most.  But there are so many NP roles to choose from, with varied populations and patient care settings, that there really is an NP role for every kind of nurse.”

Pitt Nursing is proud of the faculty, students, and alumni of our NP programs and the positive impact they are making! To all our NPs, we thank you for the lifesaving care you provide and salute you this National Nurse Practitioner Week!