By Jennifer Billingsley, FNP-BC, MSN, RN
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions
I was holding the delicate hand of a 98-year-old woman who had raised six children and worked on a farm for over 50 years. I watched as her breathing started to slow down, and all of the stress and worry washed away from her face.
I was a senior in high school and had just watched a person die right in front of me. Peacefully. I felt the presence of God pick her up in His arms and cradle her frail body.
It was in this moment that I knew I would be a nurse.
At age 16, I started as a weekend activities coordinator in an assisted living facility or, as most people refer to it, a nursing home. Each patient had their own values, nuances and, most importantly, beautiful smile.
After I finished my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), I worked as a registered nurse (RN) in critical care for several years. The critical thinking of administering medications, reporting lab values and conducting physical assessments intrigued me to pursue a master’s degree to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP).
My eyes were quickly opened to all of the various clinical practice arenas for FNP’s. In Arizona, you can practice autonomously as a primary care provider in family practice, specialty areas (i.e. cardiology, pulmonology) or even patient’s homes.
After working several years in a gastrointestinal and liver disease specialty, I found myself working in a house call practice. I currently treat patients in their homes as their primary care provider. This type of practice is very rewarding because I can provide patient-centered care in a comfortable environment with minimal distractions or time constraints. The service is convenient to many elderly patients because they have limited mobility and may find it physically difficult to visit a provider’s office.
As my professional nursing career progressed into becoming full-time FNP faculty at Grand Canyon University, I had a passion to continue my higher education. I am currently enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at GCU, and my thoughts of patient care have evolved into a greater desire to improve patient outcomes in the geriatric population.
Nursing is a unique profession that blends the art of love and compassion with the medical intelligence to produce quality patient care. Not only can I hold the hand of my 98-year-old patient, but I can also ensure that many patients like her live a life of quality and respect from the health care community.
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