Meet Natasha, Nurse Practitioner
Full Name: Natasha Ruiz
Title: RN, MSN, Emergency and Family Nurse Practitioner
I’m Natasha! I’m a nurse practitioner. I live in sunny California with my husband and our shaggy dog.
In your own words, describe your career.
I’m a dual, board certified Family and Emergency Nurse Practitioner. Even though I am a nurse practitioner, I am still a nurse, I am just using my license to practice in a different way. Nurse practitioners have the highest authority to treat in the nursing field. I can examine, diagnose, develop treatment plans, order diagnostic testing, prescribe medications and therapies, make referrals, among other things. In order to become a Nurse Practitioner, one must obtain a Master in Science of Nursing degree and complete an accredited nursing program - both to become a registered nurse, and then again, to become a nurse practitioner (that’s two nursing programs!). First, a state exam must be taken to become a registered nurse, and then national board exams passed to practice as a nurse practitioner.
In total, I went to school for about 8 years, but not consecutively! I worked for about 6 years as a registered nurse before going back to school to become a nurse practitioner. I have now been in the nursing field for almost 13 years. I currently practice in 2 different settings: emergency and occupational health. Nursing (and healthcare in general) is really cool, because there are all sorts of specialties you can go into.
There’s never a dull day in the emergency room! Patients come into the ER with a set of symptoms and it’s my job to be a detective! Is this chest pain from a heart attack, a blood clot, acid reflux? Is that abdominal pain appendicitis, or just gas from last night’s meatloaf? I get to work with all ages, from babies to the elderly! I get to stitch up wounds, reset bones, talk to different specialists about my cases. I am always learning something new! Hospital work does require an occasional weekend, night, or holiday, but most full time ER Nurse Practitioners are only required to work 12-15 shifts a month!
My other job is in the Corporate Healthcare setting. I typically see patients undergoing pre-employment physicals, employees with minor work-related injuries, and people needing to be certified by the U.S. department of transportation. It is less chaotic and the patients are not as sick as they are in the ER, but it challenges me in other ways. It’s nice to work in such different environments. That is one of the reasons I decided to train and certify under 2 specialties.
Who/what influenced or inspired you to become a Nurse?
My mom! She went back to school after having kids and being a grown up. The year I graduated high school was the same year she graduated nursing school. I thought, “well, if she can do it, so can I!” I knew I liked people, so I figured it would be a good fit. It's amazing now, to imagine how simple my decision to pursue nursing was back then. Especially because it’s blossomed into one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. Being a nurse is a huge part of my identity now.
What do you love most about your job? What are its biggest challenges?
What I love the most about my job: the art of healing! Sure, the science part of nursing is cool, but it’s also an art. It’s in the way I interact with my patients, the way I deliver good news or bad news, alleviate a patient’s fears or give them anticipatory guidance. You’ll know the nuanced provider when you meet them.
Biggest challenge: documentation! From what they tell me, this is a necessary evil. Documentation is useful for continuity of care, billing, and medicolegal purposes, but it does take away time I would have rather spent with my patient. There is a whole industry for helping to ease the burden of documentation in the healthcare industry: scribes, dictation software, personalized shortcuts built into electronic medical records, etc.
How did you gain entry into the industry? What was your big break?
The first big break of my career came the year I got into nursing school. I had only applied to 1 school (rookie mistake). They accepted 24 students and I wasn’t one of them. Well, lo and behold! The school received a special grant from the governor for funds to open up the program for 12 additional students, and I ended up getting in by the skin of my teeth. Look, it was my hard work that got me on that ’12 extra’ list, and I’ve worked hard ever since that day, but I know luck when I see her. And boy, am I grateful!
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
Traveling! Two of my favorite places to visit are Finland and Italy. I am a yogi. I’m an avid reader and audiobook listener. I recently got an e-bike, and it’s awesome! And, I LOVE hanging out with friends, family, my husband, and my labradoodle.
Do you have any words of advice? Anything you would have wanted to know before starting your career journey.
Healthcare work can be very challenging! It will require a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but if pursued for the right reasons, it will be incredibly rewarding. Don’t go into healthcare for a paycheck. You will be miserable and your patients will know it.