3 Questions with a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Jennifer Coddington

Jennifer Coddington (Photo by Allyson Corbat)

Jennifer Coddington considers herself successful when she helps young patients establish healthy habits that last their entire lives. A pediatric nurse practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and 14 years of experience, Coddington is a clinical assistant professor of nursing. In addition to seeing patients and teaching the next generation of nurse practitioners, Coddington was quoted in a New York Times opinion piece earlier this year. It argues that training more nurse practitioners is key to the future of the U.S. health care system.

1 What is required to become a nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner has at least a master's degree and is trained for two or three years following the receipt of a bachelor's degree in diagnosing and treating diseases. The current recommendation by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is that the Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, is the end degree.¬†Nurse practitioners can diagnose, order diagnostic tests, prescribe drugs and manage plans of care — they can do many things that doctors do, but nurse practitioners focus more on patient education and health promotion, which in the end can make people healthier and help rein in costs.

2 Why did you decide to be a pediatric nurse practitioner?

I've always loved children. When I was a staff nurse, charge nurse and educator at The Children's Hospital of Illinois, I saw children who came in all the time for things that were preventable — injuries, illnesses, you name it. I decided I wanted to help them prevent those conditions, instead of just taking care of them when they became sick, so I decided to become a nurse practitioner and to specialize in pediatrics.

3 How do you think pediatric nurse practitioners will fit into the future health care model?

Pediatric nurse practitioners are best positioned to start educating children and their family members early about the effects that chronic diseases can have on their health and lives. Some patients have very little knowledge about health issues, including how important it is to eat healthy and participate in physical activities, so knowing this early will have a huge, positive effect on our health care system. In the end, if we can educate more patients, they'll be happier and healthier, and our health care costs will decrease for the effort. By increasing the number of nurse practitioners in our health care system, we can positively improve the quality of care delivered to patients, increase access and help decrease health care costs.


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