This week I interview Dr. Danielle McCamey, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, FCCP about her role as a nurse practitioner, the rationale behind her career trajectory, and some advice she has for students considering a career in the field. Check out her answers to some of my questions below.
Dr. McCamey grew up in a single-parent family home in Northern Virginia. Inspired by her mother, she became a nurse and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Virginia. She started her nursing career at Georgetown University Hospital. Shortly afterward, she obtained her Master of Science from Georgetown University, specializing in Acute Care Advanced Practice.
She then received a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Georgetown University. She has over 16 years of critical care nursing experience and 8 years as an Acute Nurse Practitioner. Currently, she works as a Nurse Practitioner in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Dr. McCamey is the founder, CEO and president of DNPs of Color, Inc., a special interest nonprofit group that encourages people of color to pursue their doctorate in nursing practice.
HA: Why did you decide to be a nurse practitioner as opposed to other nursing specialties?
DM: Being a nurse practitioner offers you the best of both worlds. As an NP you have the unique ability to blend skills from the medical and nursing models. Being an NP has allowed me to have unique collaborations with the health care team. As the profession has evolved, we’ve been able to gain independent practice authority, which allows us to care and manage patients independently from a physician. One of the benefits of being in the nursing profession is the ability to explore different specialties. From my nursing career alone, I’ve been able to go from starting off in the post-anesthesia care unit to medical intensive care to now being a surgical intensive care NP and also a Chief of the preanesthesia department. This is one of the aspects of this profession that I enjoy, is the ability to try something new.
HA: Is the day to day work the same or different from what you expected?
DM: When I am working in the surgical ICU each day is different due to the dynamic nature of critical care. My particular service we manage patients in cardiac and vascular surgery ICU, neurosurgery ICU, and trauma ICU. In my service alone, we get a large variety of specialty patient populations, which makes for a very interesting shift.
HA: What types of people are most successful in this career?
DM: Being an NP means you are an advanced practice provider. There is a level of knowledge and understanding you must be willing to commit to upholding through continuing education, expanding your skills to help support and manage the patients you will be responsible for treating. Because nursing is the foundation of being an NP, you have to be one that cares for the whole person, exhibit compassion, understanding and view things from a holistic perspective. Not every patient needs a pill but sometimes a listening ear to help them discover the root of the problem.
Depending on the specialty you choose, it requires certain personality traits. From my experience in critical care, we all seem to be ones that enjoy the dynamic complexity of managing patients that are critically ill. These individuals have a unique ability to handle varying pressures of the job that requires quick thinking and one to be highly skilled in certain technical skills. Above all, you must possess a passion to care for others and motivated to always learn something new.
HA: What are some relevant resources for students interested in this career path?
DM: Engage local volunteer opportunities with hospitals, various health outreach organizations. Explore any educational offerings your high school has for you to take and learn more about healthcare or nursing.
HA: Any last pieces of advice for students considering a career as a nurse practitioner?
DM: When I reflect on my path some of the things I wished that I had early on.
#1 Find a mentor.
Find a mentor in nursing early on. I never knew the value of finding and asking someone to help guide me along the path to being a nurse and nurse practitioner. Their experience and wisdom can be invaluable as you venture along. I found mentors in different stages of my career. Some helped me develop socially, others helped professionally. Some were fun and some were tough. The main thing was they all saw potential in me and inspired me to expand in ways I would have never considered otherwise. I even found mentors that I sought to be like as a nurse and as an NP. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people to be your mentor, you’d be surprised how many people will be honored to be one for you!
#2 Get involved early.
I wished I got involved early on in the hospital/nursing setting through volunteer opportunities. Any experience where you can either do anything healthcare-related that involves patients will give you insight on if nursing is the path for you. Don’t discount any experiences, something as small as being a junior volunteer at a local hospital can provide valuable insight and also looks good on your resume! We love people that already have a heart for community service.
#3 Explore your options.
Take your time to explore the different specialties. Seek out shadowing opportunities in specialties you might have a potential interest in before you commit. Study abroad! Seeing how other countries do healthcare is invaluable and will add a new perspective to your future practice as a nurse or NP.
This is the first of a series of interviews we will be bringing you from healthcare professionals in the field. If you would like to hear more from a particular specialty, let us know in the comment section below!