CATHERINE SMITH - PERIOPERATIVE AND BARIATRICS NP
Working in both Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast with two scopes under her belt, Catherine Smith is collaborating with other NPs to improve health care access to patients.
Before becoming a NP, Catherine was a surgical assistant, it was then when she observed that a lot of her patients had difficulties in managing their weight. She did research to find out about services that could help patients manage their weight, only to realise that it was limited and expensive. She then decided this was a potential NP career.
Tell us about the community you are working in and the nursing you are providing to patients.
I have two scopes of practice. I work in the perioperative area, which means I work in operating theatres assisting surgeons, and sometimes in their consulting rooms. I work with the populations who are having gynaecology and obstetrics surgery, as well as general surgery, in the private sector.
My other scope is bariatrics. I operate my own NP-led clinic, offering weight-loss services. I think there are still a lot of challenges in providing weight-loss services with a holistic approach both in primary and tertiary health care sector. My clinic is improving my clients’ access to these services.
What is unique about your role in your community.
Presently there are not a lot of weight-loss services who look at a person as a whole, as NPs or nurses do. So being a Bariatrics NP, I think my role is unique. We have a very limited number of NPs working in this scope, so this too makes my role unique and rewarding.
The other thing that I like is that there are certain times when I collaborated with other NPs who work with me at my clinics, and through this collaboration we managed to improve our services and access to our patients. I think it is a special thing that we do.
Why did you decide to be a NP?
It’s quite a funny story, to be honest. The first time I heard about NPs, I had been a nurse for a long time, and I immediately thought that it sounded like a very scary thing to do. I wondered who would want to become a NP?
At the time, I had been working at operating theatres for several years, I also had worked as an educator, a quality facilitator and as an intensive care nurse. I really was not happy staying as an educator forever, and I did not want to go to management. I wanted to stay clinical, so I was searching for a way to take that next step as a clinician. I went to a conference and where I found out about the nurse surgical assistant role, which I thought was interesting. That’s when my advanced practice nursing journey began. When I was studying the nurse surgical assistant role, I met with another APRN who had transfer to the NP masters. After talking to her, I decided to transfer to the NP master course, as this is what I wanted in the long run.
Few words to describe NP?
Generally speaking, I think ‘strong-willed’ would be suitable. NPs need to be strong-willed to survive the process. They are also independent thinkers. I think most of us are compassionate in seeing to the needs of our patients.
What messages do you want to deliver to NPs and aspiring NPs?
I really want us to start to respect each other and work together more. I think as a body we will have more to offer. While there are differences between us, I think it’s important to show respect to the differences, and understanding that at the end of the day, we all have similar core values and beliefs on the way we work, no matter what scope we are working under.
What is your favourite memory or experience with your patients?
It’s really rewarding when my patients tell me that we have reached and/or exceeded their health goals. To have the privilege to see my patients succeeding in reaching their goals and seeing them feeling the positive changes, it is very rewarding to me.