My Evolution into the Medical Industry
The day I set foot on Hamilton’s campus as a freshman, I knew without a doubt that I would major in a science and pursue medical school upon graduation. However, like so many things in academics and life, let’s just say my freshman-year hopes and dream “evolved” over time.
After my sophomore year, I found myself having doubts about my desire to go to medical school. I still, however, wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. I explored alternative options including careers as a physician assistant, physical therapist, and nurse, among others. After talking with people in those professions, I was drawn to the nurse practitioner (NP) role.
Specifically, I liked the combination of the “hands-on” nature of nursing, paired with the autonomy and responsibility more often associated with being a doctor. I learned that NP’s have the opportunity to work autonomously, diagnose and prescribe, run their own practice, and even work without physician oversight. NP’s can do this all while spending relatively more time on actual patient care than many other health care professions.
Fast forward to my senior year at Hamilton: I had wrapped up a degree in neuroscience and applied to various NP programs (specifically, NP programs aimed at students who have an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing…tailor-made for liberal arts students). Many of these programs are advertised as “accelerated” programs because in a short period of time, you can earn a BSN (bachelor’s of science in nursing) and subsequently a MSN (masters of science in nursing) programs.
I ultimately chose to attend Columbia University’s accelerated program in New York City. After one year of the accelerated nursing program, I graduated the first of two portions and earned a BSN. Columbia’s program allowed students to go directly into the MSN portion, or work for a while before continuing study. I took a year off in between and worked as a registered nurse (RN); it was a great opportunity to (finally) get some real world experience, earn a good salary, and take some time off from school. I worked as a float (think “substitute”) nurse at a hospital in Manhattan. I got exposure to all sorts of different disciplines and cases, and I enjoyed the unpredictability and fast-pace of the hospital environment.
After my year off from school, I continued working part-time as a RN while completing the second portion of my graduate nursing studies. After another 18 months of study, I graduated the second portion and earned my MSN; shortly thereafter, I passed my board tests (in family medicine) and became a full-fledged NP!
Coming out of graduate school, my first NP job was at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. I worked in the department of orthopedic surgery in collaboration with three orthopaedic surgeons. I focused on all aspects of patient care, with a focus on tumors and cancers of the bone and soft tissues. As I spent time in the practice, I was promoted to lead all pre- and post-operative care for our patients. My role came with a lot of responsibility, and I loved the direct, hands-on nature of being a NP. I worked at Montefiore for over 6 years and loved the job and the people I worked with.
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Then, life took another turn, and I realized one of the most under-appreciated (but important) benefits of being a NP: flexibility. My husband and I had our first of two sons in 2016. While I had always envisioned myself as a working mom, my paradigm completely changed once our son was born. For my entire career I had worked hard and focused on professional progression, but all of a sudden, my priorities changed drastically. I wanted to be at home with my son, and I gave up nursing for a time. My husband and I ultimately moved away from New York to raise a family; soon after we moved, I found myself with multiple job offers for both RN and NP roles. I took a job for a time as a NP in an orthopedic practice in Columbus, OH. I am currently staying at home with my two sons; however, I expect to go back to work in the next few years, and I am fortunate to have the option to pursue job offers as either a RN or NP. If I want to find a part-time role that allows me to spend some time at home and not be “on” all the time, I can do that. At the same time, if I want to take on a full-time role with a ton of responsibility (or even start my own practice) I can do that too!
To sum it all up, becoming an NP allowed me to take on huge responsibility, while also giving me immense professional flexibility. There is a joke amongst nurses that we will always have a job if we want one, and the truth is I often receive on-the-spot job offers when other people hear about my education and work history. When I think about my wide-eyed freshman year self, I laugh at how certain I thought I was about my life and career. I am now older and (hopefully) wiser, and I know that life is anything but certain. However, I do know that wherever my life goes from here, I will always have the option to work (or not) in some capacity in the nursing field.
Samantha (Armstrong) Blosser graduated in 2007 with a major in neuroscience. After Hamilton, she obtained both her BSN and MSN from Columbia University. Samantha worked in various nursing roles in New York City for over 8 years, most recently serving as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y. in the department of orthopedic surgery. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.