Insider’s Look Into the Nurse Practitioner Profession With Cristina Yasuko Matsumoto, WHNP-BC

Cristina Yasuko Matsumoto, WHNP-BC is a women’s health nurse practitioner who pursued a career in nursing because she is passionate about science and caring for the sick. She works at Rush University Medical Center of Chicago in the Adolescent Family Center, working with low-income adolescent females ages 14 to 23. She earned her BSN from the University of Illinois of Chicago and her WHNP from Loyola University of Chicago. She is NCC certified (National Certification Corporation) and has been practicing for 10 months. Click here to read more about Cristina’s decision to become a nurse practitioner.

  1. Can you tell us about your educational and nursing background? Did your career plans always include becoming a nurse practitioner?
  2. What type of nursing did you focus on in school, and how did your courses prepare you for your current role?
  3. What does a typical day look like for you, and what are your key responsibilities as a nurse practitioner?
  4. When you were choosing a graduate program, what factors were important to you, and what should future students look for in a school?
  5. What is your favorite part about being a nurse practitioner?
  6. What is the most challenging part of your job?
  7. In your opinion, what are the most common misconceptions about the nurse practitioner field?
  8. What skills and qualities do you consider to be essential to work as a nurse practitioner?
  9. Do you have any advice for students balancing school, work, and personal lives?
  10. What is the best piece of advice you could offer to students considering a nurse practitioner program?

1. Can you tell us about your educational and nursing background? Did your career plans always include becoming a nurse practitioner?

I attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1999-2000 and took one year of liberal arts and sciences. At that time, I was considering pursuing a degree as a registered dietician versus registered nurse. I then attended University of Illinois at Chicago from 2000-2004 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. My career plans did not always include becoming a nurse practitioner. Like I mentioned, at first I wanted to pursue a degree as a dietician because I was always interested in nutrition. I then decided to go the nursing route because I figured it did incorporate nutrition as well as other sciences which I had always had an interest in. I finally decided to pursue a degree as a women’s health nurse practitioner after shadowing a family nurse practitioner during my undergraduate nursing career, as well as working as a registered nurse in a labor and delivery and postpartum unit at Swedish Covenant Hospital.

2. What type of nursing did you focus on in school, and how did your courses prepare you for your current role?

In graduate school, I focused on women’s health courses since that was the type of area I wanted to pursue as a nurse practitioner. In actuality, many of the different types of nurse practitioner programs (i.e. family, acute care, pediatric) all took similar courses. There were only one or two courses or clinical rotations that separated these different areas. The first couple of classes I took in graduate school gave a concrete base to start off which included classes like nursing concepts and theories. The other classes I took dealt with included things such as pharmacology and pathophysiology and research. These classes were somewhat like a review from undergraduate nursing but were more tailored to how a nurse practitioner would practice independently. For example, more questions asked what you would prescribe based on case scenarios or how you would treat a patient based on his or her symptoms.

Many of the courses and clinical rotations were rigorous, especially the classes that dealt with physical assessment. I remember a couple times we were supposed to memorize 106 different questions and physical assessment skills that we performed on a real-life person who acted as a model for our class. This was nerve-wracking but also a great learning experience as well because it mirrored an actual real-life scenario that we would shortly be performing ourselves as we practiced as nurse practitioners ourselves. I feel that the hands-on physical assessment classes coupled with the classes we took asking us how we would treat patients based on their symptoms really helped me become a better nurse practitioner today because it gave me skills I still use to this day to perform physical assessments on my patients and treat.

3. What does a typical day look like for you, and what are your key responsibilities as a nurse practitioner?

I work a Monday through Friday schedule and typically start my day around 9:30 a.m. and end around 6:00 p.m. I typically see on average about 12 to 13 patients per day. All of our patients are scheduled, and there are no “walk-in” patients. I am allotted 40 minutes of time with longer visits such as annual exams, new gyne patients, postpartum exams, intrauterine device placements and new prenatal visits. Visits such as return obstetric patients and concern visits are allotted a 20-minute slot.

The key responsibilities as a nurse practitioner for me are to obtain a thorough history on each patient, diagnose, treat, educate, and counsel. I also review all abnormal and normal lab results and depending on their need, have our registered nurse call them back with the appropriate medication regimen or proper counseling. Other responsibilities include ordering appropriate lab tests, exams, diagnostic tests such as ultrasound, and prescribing medications.

4. When you were choosing a graduate program, what factors were important to you, and what should future students look for in a school?

When looking at different graduate schools, I wanted the school I attended to have an excellent reputation. Also being a single mom, I wanted the school to be able to offer online classes as an added convenience. I was also looking for a school which acknowledged individuality and that didn’t look at each student as just a number. For future students looking for a school, I think they should search for a school that values their individuality. I also think that cost, transportation, and convenience should also be factored into the equation.

5. What is your favorite part about being a nurse practitioner?

I have so many favorite parts about being a nurse practitioner so it’s difficult to speak about just one area. I love the counseling and education I am able to provide to my patients, especially since I feel that as low-income teenage girls they do require a great deal more than your average teenager. I am able to see some of the changes that I have made in these young women’s lives and that in and of itself is so rewarding. I also cherish the bonds that I have developed amongst my patients. I feel great when they are able to trust me with things that they may not have been willing to share with anyone else. For my obstetric patients, I feel like I am able to guide them through their pregnancies and love educating them about what they will be expecting in the future. I also feel so honored to be able to let them experience hearing their unborn child’s heartbeat for the first time. The look on their faces when they first hear that sound is always so amazing to see.

6. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is probably not having enough time for each visit to be able to counsel and educate my patients in the manner that I desire. We are lucky to have on staff a licensed social worker who sees all of our adolescent girls and is able to spend more time on the counseling and education aspect, which helps out immensely.

7. In your opinion, what are the most common misconceptions about the nurse practitioner field?

I think there are a couple big misconceptions about nurse practitioners. One big misconception is that as providers, we are the same as physician assistants. There are similarities amongst the two professions, but we deliver care in two totally different ways. Nurse practitioners provide more holistic care and we do collaborate with a physician, but we work independently of them, which is different versus a physician assistant who works directly under a physician.

I also almost always get questioned as to why I didn’t become a doctor because nurse practitioners perform the same type of work but get paid less. Nurse practitioners and doctors deliver care in totally different ways. I always like to think of it as nurse practitioners tend to deliver more holistic care and look at the whole person and not just give a diagnosis.

8. What skills and qualities do you consider to be essential to work as a nurse practitioner?

As a nurse practitioner, you need to be task and time oriented. It can be challenging trying to fit an entire physical exam, history, and any other concerns that may come up into a 20 or 40 minute visit. I also feel that you need to be very good at taking patient histories. While a patient may be recounting to you in their own words what concerns they have for you or telling you a story, it may become hard for a provider to decipher. I think you also need to be a people person and love your job. Nurse practitioners work with people day in and day out, so they need to be able to interact effectively not only with their patients but their colleagues as well.

9. Do you have any advice for students balancing school, work, and personal lives?

My advice for students is that this balance can be achieved, but it does take a lot of work, family or friend support, and great time management. As a single mother going through graduate school, I was raising my two-year-old son along with the help of my family members. I could not have done it alone with the support from my friends and family. I feel that when going to school, you really need to look at what priorities come first, then manage your time accordingly.

10. What is the best piece of advice you could offer to students considering a nurse practitioner program?

The best piece of advice I could offer to students considering a nurse practitioner program is to always keep on furthering your career as a nurse. I believe the statistics are that only around 10 percent of the nursing population has obtained their master’s degree. I am a firm believer in pursuing higher education, and I feel that there is a huge shortage of nurse practitioners in the field. The opportunities are endless as to what type of nurse practitioner you want to become or in what type of setting you want to work in. There are even nurse practitioner positions that you can invent yourself if you are creative. After graduating from nursing school the thought of going back to school for another two to three years may seem daunting, but it is worth it in the end run.

I also urge students to be aware of some online master’s degree nursing programs which may not always be legitimate. They should make sure that the program they are enrolling in is fully credentialed and reputable.

The Best Online Nurse Practitioners Degrees

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who provides primary and specialty care to patients. A nurse practitioner is responsible for administering both nursing and wider healthcare services; and, they are licensed to prescribe medications. Becoming a nurse practitioner requires the completion of a master's degree program. Below are the most popular colleges offering online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees.

Walden University Doctor of Nursing Practice
RN to MSN: Adult Gerontology NP
RN to MSN: Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP
Walden University - The Walden University Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program offers study in the advanced methods of practicing nursing throughout the healthcare industry. Registered nurses with bachelors in nursing are able to obtain their diploma in an accelerated format. Students can also specialize in various aspects of nursing, including Adult Gerontology, Adult Gerontology Acute Care, and Nurse Leadership.
Kaplan University MSN: Nurse Practitioners
RN to MSN
MSN: Nurse Administration
MSN: Nurse Education
MSN: Nurse Informatics
Kaplan University - The Kaplan University MSN for Nurse Practitioners and RN to MSN programs offers students the opportunity to explore nursing methods in a dynamic healthcare environment. Courses include Advanced Nursing Roles, Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing, and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in a Diverse Community. MSN specializations are offered in nurse administration, nurse education, and nurse informatics.
Bradley University MSN to DNP: Nursing Leadership
Bradley University - Bradley University confers an MSN to DNP in Nurse Leadership degree that allows for customization in non-nursing specialties, including disaster management, accouting, finance, organizational behavior, and more. Graduates of this program typically enter careers as nurse educators, nurse executives, health case managers, or managed care consultants, to name a few.
Grand Canyon University MSN: Nurse Leadership
MSN/MBA: Nurse Leadership
Grand Canyon University - The Grand Canyon University College of Nursing and Health Sciences provides students with a variety of master's programs tailored to meet the students specific interests. Specializations include Education, Leadership in Health Care Systems (also available as an MBA).
South University MSN: Nurse Practitioners
RN to MSN
RN to MSN: Adult Health
RN to MSN: Nurse Education
South University - The South University Master of Science in Nursing program features a Nurse Practitioner specialization designed for Registered Nurses that wish to advance their skills, manage their patients care, and make critical decisions using evidence-based information. The program is conveniently offered online. For RNs looking to make a career jump, South University also offers an accelerated RN to MSN program with specialized tracks in adult health and nurse education.
Georgetown University MSN: Midwifery and Women's Health
Georgetown University - Graduates of the Georgetown University online MS of Nursing in Midwifery and Women's Health will have more than just a degree to their name upon completion. Students will have the skill and knowledge to help advance their profession, and medicine as a whole, while serving as sponsors of the well-being and overall health of each of their patients.

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