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Interview with Stephen Ferrara, Executive Director of The Nurse Practitioner Association New York State

Dr. Stephen Ferrara is an actively practicing Nurse Practitioner, executive, and adjunct faculty member. He combines years of clinical experience along with health policy development to increase access to nurse practitioner-partnered care in New York State by serving as executive director of The Nurse Practitioner Association New York State.

Dr. Ferrara holds a passion for health care technology and integrating evidence-based practice into daily practice. His doctoral work examined the impact of group medical visits for patients with type II diabetes and whether this intervention led to better health outcomes. Dr. Ferrara is one of a handful of nurse practitioners who authors an active blog, “A Nurse Practitioner’s View,” attracting thousands of monthly readers by writing about current issues, trends, and policies in health care. He was awarded the American Association of Nurse Practitioners’ NY State Award for Clinical Excellence in June 2012 and inducted in the Fellows of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners in 2013.

What event or series of events led you to pursue nursing as a professional choice?

Nurse Stephen FerraraFrom an early age, I was fascinated with biology and knew I wanted to be in a field where I can integrate my curiosity of the sciences along with caring for people. I considered career choices such as physician, nurse, physical therapy and pharmacy. I spent time in each of those areas in college and along with advice from friends and family members, I decided that nursing was the field that would allow me to have opportunities caring for people like no other profession would. I also hold passions for health information technology and health policy. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to bring all of the facets to my work.

Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in your career in nursing and the steps you took to overcome them?

One specific challenge was entering a field where men where in the extreme minority. There were negative stigmas that I endured and sometimes continue to endure today. It was important to me that despite some negative comments, I would not let that affect the care I delivered. This could have derailed my future work and I remain committed to not allow it happen.

Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

One of the most satisfying projects occurred during my doctoral studies in a team-based approach involving a new diabetes treatment initiative at a local health facility. I realized that no one person could get a project like this done on his or her own and we completely relied on the strengths of the team to move the project forward. Group and team work is essential in health care today due to the complexity of the issues we are attempting to find solutions for. My team and I were able to comprehensively assess the available evidence, initiate the intervention, and evaluate the outcomes of the intervention. We all found great satisfaction when the intervention improved health outcomes and quality of life for the patients we were working with.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you or the activities you spend the most time on at work?

As a practicing nurse practitioner, executive, and adjunct NP faculty member, my days are very diverse and involve lots of multitasking. I spend the majority of the day working in the occupational clinic at a large urban health system delivering primary and preventative care to employees of the hospital. I am able to spend time with my patients, listen to their concerns, and formulate treatment plans in partnership with them. When I am done with my clinical duties, I am usually on a teleconference call or catching up on e-mails running my state’s nurse practitioner association. Finally, I find time to grade student assignments in a mostly on-line course that I co-teach.

What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the people that I encounter, as well as, the diverse nature of the work I am involved in. My schedule is rarely routine and I find that this keeps me engaged in the work and continually trying to enhance my work.

What advice would you give to new graduates for getting hired after graduation?

Learning doesn’t stop after graduation and we must embrace new evidence that is discovered and technologies used. It is essential for clinicians to evaluate new strategies and interventions so that we can provide the most comprehensive, patient-centered care possible.

What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise new graduates to mine their own strengths to further their careers?

I try and bring thoughtful and reflective approaches to my career. New graduates should not accept the status quo and must challenge themselves and their work environments. These reflections may take you in a different direction than you thought you were headed. A change in the direction or specialty one is working in may be difficult to do, but one should not be afraid to try something that is different.

We’d like to thank Stephen for being so generous with his time and sharing his insights and advice with our readers. You can learn more about Stephen Ferrara at A Nurse Practitioner’s View and The Nurse Practitioner Association New York State.