My passion in life has always been to help others, which is why I chose nursing as my career. My name is Kimberly French and I am a family nurse practitioner at the St. Mary’s and Mount Carmel Medical Clinics.
I first started working as a nurse at Carbonear General Hospital in 2009, just after I graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing degree. About a year later, I started working as a community health nurse, which is where my inspiration to become a nurse practitioner was born. For six years, I provided service both in clinic and in patients’ homes.
Along the way, I learned a lot about providing primary care, which is typically the patients’ first point of contact with the health-care system, but is really so much more than that. It’s a philosophy for delivering community-based services that empower individuals, families and communities to take some ownership of their own health and wellbeing.
Becoming a nurse practitioner was an easy decision for me, as I love the human connection. I hear such great stories from my patients; meet such interesting people; get to help patients heal through difficult life transitions; and support the patient regarding their choices and care.
So, what does a Nurse Practitioner do?
Many people ask me that and are often surprised to learn that nurse practitioners (NPs) provide many of the same services performed by physicians.
We diagnose and treat acute conditions such as the flu or tonsillitis and chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension; order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests such as lab work, X-rays and ultrasound; perform prenatal, well child, and adult assessment and screening such as pap clinics; and diagnose and manage minor trauma, such as suturing and splinting. We also prescribe medications, teach health promotion and disease prevention to patients, and consult with other health-care providers about a patient’s care plan.
I feel like I’ve seen it all – from treating lacerations caused by lawn mowers, snow blowers, and chainsaws, to simple fractures, falls, minor accidents, the removal of foreign bodies like fishhooks and even treating patients experiencing chest pain. I also pronounce deaths and complete death certificates.
As far back as the 1970s, nurse practitioners began providing health care to communities that had been relying solely on visiting physicians. While nurse practitioners do not replace physicians, we provide high quality, cost effective care. Over time, our role has continued to grow in primary health care.
Life outside the “overpass”
I was raised “around the bay.” I’ve always had a passion for rural residents and their strength and resilience. I am proud that my rural experiences have allowed me to shape a career serving the community.
The ideal of small-town life can seem attractive and picturesque. The pace of life slows down. Everyone knows everyone. Depending on the size of the community, there is often only one medical clinic and fewer community services compared to those offered in a larger community.
It’s a lifestyle that can be hard to envision for some, and can sometimes cause difficulty recruiting physicians.
It is sometimes because of these challenges that nurse practitioners in rural settings can utilize the full spectrum of their knowledge and training.
I operate with a great deal of autonomy, diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions, providing essential mental health services, educating patients about the importance of preventative care, and providing palliative and end-of-life care to patients in their homes. It’s not unusual for me to treat entire families.
Being part of the community is important to me. Whenever possible, I visit patients in their homes who are unable to come to clinic. I’m also part of the school sexual health team, which provides access to clinical sexual health services for the high school population; I’m a member of the community advisory committee in St. Mary’s and Mount Carmel, and I participate in a lot of continuing education events and enjoy mentoring students.
Mind, body spirit: Lasting change
My role is ever changing. The learning is endless! Providing personalized, focused care to those I come to know personally adds an extra layer of connection that enriches the work I do and allows me to see first-hand the impact that a nurse practitioner can have.
It’s so rewarding to know that in my role, I not only can make a positive difference in someone’s emotional and physical comfort but can even encourage patients to seek medical care earlier, to come to us to treat chronic conditions sooner and to reduce their reliance on emergency department for primary health care needs.
My job helps me realize that I am very fortunate to have my health. Reflecting on my experiences, and the situations of some of my patients, I know how lucky I am. Helping those I care for to live healthier lives, as well, is a natural extension of that. And a source of inspiration every day! ■
This story was written by Kimberly French, a family nurse practitioner at St. Mary’s and Mount Carmel.