I was at a crossroads in my nursing career when I first became aware of the University of North Florida. I had been a registered nurse for about 20 years and 90 percent of that time I spent as a floor nurse in a hospital. I loved my job but I felt I could do more with additional advanced training.
That’s when my wife and I began looking at advanced practice nursing programs. My wife, Mary, is also a registered nurse so we both had a basis for evaluating programs. We live in Orlando and consequently evaluated the program at the public university there and then visited UNF. It was quickly apparent to us UNF is a more hands-on program. The instructors are fantastic because they have great one-on-one contact with students. Communication is really a big part of the Brooks College of Health program. I’ve been in other programs where you can send an e-mail to an instructor and never hear back. Not at UNF. The instructors are very responsive to students. They are involved in helping to set up your clinical experience. In other programs, you’re pretty much on your own. Although it’s a very challenging program, it was absolutely the right choice for me.
Commuting from Orlando to Jacksonville was difficult at times, especially since we recently had a child. At the urging of my wife, I left my hospital job to be better able to fully focus on my studies at UNF. A fellowship from Jacksonville resident Angelo Cavallaro has made it financially possible. The pressures would have been much greater without it.
I’m now involved in my primary care practicum at the Family Medical and Dental Center in Palatka. This program, operated by the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, has been a transformational experience for me. I always took for granted that people knew about health issues and how to take care of themselves. But in Palatka, I’ve been in a more rural setting. Many of my patients don’t have that basic knowledge and they are underserved. They simply don’t have a lot of options for their medical care.
I passed my family nurse practitioner certification exam recently and am now working in a pediatrics practice in Orlando. I very much enjoy working with children and am thankful to UNF for giving me this opportunity to expand my career.