The True Privilege of Nurse Practitioners


It is somewhere in the middle of a patient’s story when the nursing role thrives.

Although her body was aging, Susan walked into the clinic with an air of confidence and her head lifted high.

Before I had the chance to ask her how she was doing, she started to tell me her story. Even though she had only come to the clinic for a cough, her story added a dimension to her visit that I hadn’t seen coming.

In a brief moment, I learned how Susan had recently been through many tragedies. She had lost her husband in the past year, and her grandson had died suddenly in the past month. She shared with me that her grandson had been in his final year at Princeton University with a promising future ahead.

With tears in her eyes, Susan told me how her grandson had been diagnosed with a simple headache at the local emergency room during his last year of college, only to discover a day later that he had bacterial meningitis. Within a few days, his life was claimed by this condition.

As tears flowed down Susan’s cheeks, I nearly forgot why she was at the clinic. I embraced her in that moment and was reminded of my privilege as a nurse practitioner to stand alongside my patients as they share their life stories.

The privilege of being nurse is not quantifiable. It is somewhere in the middle of a patient’s story when the nursing role thrives.

There was evident relief and refocus in Susan’s demeanor as she let her tears flow. I squeezed her hand and prepared to examine her. As I reached over Susan to listen to her lungs, I was struck by the fact that I now had a clear picture of the whole patient.

Knowing Susan’s story and her present condition allowed me to create a care plan that embraced the totality of who she was in that moment. After sharing this care plan with Susan, I squeezed her hand one more time, and then she walked out of my clinic and my life. I wondered if she knew how much her story had enriched my own journey as a nurse practitioner in that moment.

When Susan left that day, I thought about the immense privilege of the nursing aspect of the nurse practitioner’s role. As a nursing-based health care provider, it is an honor to embrace the totality of each patient’s humanity.

Hearing stories like Susan’s and taking each patient’s individuality into account allows me to craft care plans that encompass the holistic needs of the patient and focus on the particular journey of each person.

Kristene Diggins, FAANP, CNE, NEA-BC, DNP, DCC, MBA, is a Corporate Senior Educator at MinuteClinic and faculty at the University of Phoenix. She has worked as a provider in convenient care for 9 years and she enjoys international medical opportunities, as her career goal is to enhance health care access globally.

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