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Kate Burkholder, RN, MN, NP

New Brunswick

Why did you decide to become a nurse practitioner?
I had been a nurse for 22 years and I knew I wanted to advance in my career. I had originally been a diploma nurse (graduated in 1976) so I knew I had to go back and do my degree. I went back and did my degree, took a year off, then did my master’s with an NP component. I have held a lot of different roles during my career (supervisor and manager, working in public health, mental health, rural areas, etc.) and I really like helping people manage their health and life issues as they navigate through the health-care system. What I like about being an NP is you get the best of both worlds: nursing and medicine, what a nice mix!

How do you feel you help patients the most?
I have always been known by my peers and patients as being a good listener. I wanted to listen to people and their health issues because I have heard many people say things like, “I’ve been to a provider, but they did not care about what I said. They just gave me a prescription and told me to go about my way.” I am open and I am known for getting to the heart of the issue; patients know when they speak to me, I will help. I worked in my home town, delivering care for about six years, left for eight years, and then came back for the last 26 years, so I am very knowledgeable about my community and the resources that are available. I am generally good at making linkages to resources, including those that operate on a non-profit basis. I also teach at Athabasca University, and at the end of each course I always take time to ask my students to look at the available resources in the communities they will live and work in because it is very important to know your community as an NP.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job and what is the most challenging?
The most rewarding aspect is to be a part of a patient’s journey to better health. Sometimes I get to join them at the beginning of that process and work with them right through to the end — good or bad. I make sure people do not feel alone in the process. I do house calls so that people always have access.

There are still barriers to practice. In New Brunswick, NPs are still new, and even with legislation to practise just over 15 years old, there remains limitations in some government agencies. For example, an NP’s signature is not recognized on a disability tax credit form. To some agencies, it seems we are invisible and I do not feel they are fully aware of our role. We often have to go to a physician who does not know the patient at all just to get a signature.

More about Kate:
NPs are very clinically focused. We wear a lot of hats — we not only provide care, but we help with access — linkages to other resources. It is important to stay involved within your organizations, whether it be locally, provincially, or nationally. Those organizations are important to move the visibility and credibility of the NP role forward. I have been involved at various levels. In 2008, I received a nurse mentor award from a group of NP students who felt I was worthy of the award for all the mentoring I have done over the years. I have a chapter in the book No One Left Behind (by Claudia Mariano) about how NPs are changing the health-care system. The NP role is a rewarding role for nurses and I would encourage nurses who excel in clinical practice and helping people to consider advancing in their career.