Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bon anniversaire!

NewFNP celebrated five years of being newFNP today by hitting an 8AM spin class -- her first spin class in a year. Yowza.

A lot has changed in these five years. All of her friends from nursing school are married and most have kids or are pregnant (hooray nycPNP!!), whereas newFNP is bordering on cougardom. She has lost some of her closest loved ones and has gained others. She has visited three new countries, had three major hair-do changes and is on her third car.

But newFNP's most significant change is that she is confident in who she is as an NP. She is continually challenged by her patients, by working in community health and by keeping herself well while working in a dysfunctional environment.

But she is learning and she is capable. Just this week, newFNP diagnosed erythema nodosum and nephrotic syndrome -- both just known of but never seen differential diagnoses until now. That feels quite good. She saw what she thought might just be chancroid, which to hear newFNP's patient tell it feels not at all good, but might feel better after a change from acyclovir to azithromycin.

Now all newFNP is left to contemplate is where is this little endeavor -- the one you are reading -- going to go next?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thank you sir, may I have another?

Remember the joy newFNP felt when she received her letter of completion from NHSC? Lord have mercy, she signed on for two more years. By the time newFNP finishes her loan repayment contract, she will have had seven crazy years at her community health clinic and $50,000 less debt.

NewFNP imagines that the phrase "seven-year itch" will take on a whole new meaning.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

NewFNP has a few more pearls she brought home that she thought she would share with her NP colleagues and students. They pertain to neurology.

NewFNP was recently visiting BostonFNP who noted that if a patient can climb up onto the exam table, half of her neuro exam was done. An exaggeration, sure, but it makes a point: a busy clinician needs a high yield and fast exam. So, here you go.

Regarding Mental Status -- The MMSE tests the hippocampus only. In a screening test, if the patient can give a 100% coherent history, the mental status exam is likely normal. One must test fluency, comprehension and repetition to determine if language is intact.

Regarding Cranial Nerves -- The cute and funny neurologist at the CME extravaganza notes that visual field testing is extremely informative and underutilized by generalists. In patients who are unable to cooperate, the examiner may point one finger towards the eye of the patient. This should elicit a blink in both eyes and can be recorded as blinking or not blinking to threat.

Regarding Upper Motor Neuron/Pyramidal Weakness -- Assess for pronator drift as the supinator muscle is an extensor muscle which are weaker than flexor muscles. Assess fine finger movements and toe tapping. Is one side faster than the other? If so, problem. Assess one muscle in each of the four extremities. Position the patient in the desired position and tell them, "Don't let me push you down." Test the fingers and big toes bilaterally and you're set.

Regarding Sensory Testing -- Pick either vibration or position sense and temperature or pinprick and test each big toe. Done. Because if your patient is losing sensation, it's starting distally. If the exam is positive, you can move it on up. You can trace a pin up a patient's abdomen and ask him if there is a spot where the sensation changes. If so, map it out with your dermatomes and you'll know where the spinal lesion is.

Ankle clonus indicates a severe upper motor neuron lesion.

To distinguish between true and psychogenic weakness, have the patient bend their arm and you move it down. If a patient is truly weak, the examiner should be able to overcome the patient smoothly. If it's psychogenic or weakness from fatigue, you will note breakaway weakness -- the patient resists at first and the movement is jerky and then the patient no longer resists and the movement is smooth.

The Romberg is a hell of a good test. All you have to do is ask a patient to stand, put their feet together and close their eyes. If they can't stand, you know that their vestibular and/or motor system is jacked. If they can't put their feet together, their cerebellum is effed up. If they fall when they close their eyes, their proprioception is on the fritz and you have a positive Romberg.

And finally, BostonFNP was right -- the single most useful neuro exam is ambulation. Have the patient walk, turn and walk again. Have them walk on their tippy-toes and have them tandem walk.

NewFNP cannot believe that she is back in her urban abode and having to work a real day tomorrow. Thank goodness Gap of all places had some new flattering trousers and a cute stripy boatneck top to ease newFNP back into her work week.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Continuing edu-vacation v.2010 part 2

NewFNP would be absolutely fine to stay on CME, take hikes through beautiful mountain trails, reconnect with good pals from grad school, drink White Russians and play Quiddler.

For those who are interested, newFNP posted her notes from a very helpful EKG interpretation lecture on the newFNP Facebook page. The response has been quick and somewhat shocking. How is it that so many new nurse practitioners feel like their EKG education was utter shit? NewFNP certainly did. One reason might be that the lecture newFNP attended was one that is normally given to medical residents. What the fuck, expensive brand-name nurse practitioner school from which newFNP is a proud alum? Your students don't deserve as good an education? Lame. Apparently, there is a nationwhide epidemic of poorly taught EKG interpretation in NP schools. Super lame.

NewFNP maintains that NP education needs a bit of a re-vamp. A little more specialty exposure that is highly relevant to primary care -- like dermatology, neurology, endocrinology and cardiology -- is in order. Seriously, when so many NPs are planning to work in community health where access to specialty care is nearly non-existent, throw your students (and their future patients) a bone. And then give NPs a residency. It doesn't have to be three years, but even a year or eighteen months would go a long way in helping newly minted NPs be more ready to care for patients.

Sadly, it's unlikely that newFNP will ever be in a position to transform nursing education. Yet with all the NPs in this country and in school currently, she wonders just how in the hell is it that it hasn't been done yet?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Continuing edu-vacation v.2010 part 1

NewFNP is so excited to be away from clinic for a week. Why is taking care of people so exhausting? (And rewarding, of course, but still exhausting!)

In the last week, the clinic was absolutely overloaded with patients, both in volume and acuity. A chief complaint of lab results twice revealed patients with GFRs in the teens. A chief complaint of staple removal revealed a young woman needing the staples removed from the incision in her wrist where she had tried to kill herself. Three likely cancers. One repeat teen pregnancy.

NewFNP is now lounging poolside, beverage at hand, chic new Pixie hairdo getting lots of compliments. She is at CME and she is recharging her batteries. She is somewhat concerned that her batteries need recharging after a mere four months back in full-time community health practice. She does, however, know that one thing that will always recharge newFNP's batteries, aside from J. Crew cashmere and coddington platform suede heels, is a (possibly) inadvertently hilarious comment at CME.

In discussing the newest ACOG pap screening guidelines, an OB/GYN and head of newFNP's state family planning program mentioned that one need never perform pap screening in a woman with a vaginal cuff after complete hysterectomy for non-malignant concerns. He then noted, "This one has been slow to penetrate into clinical practice."

Really? Really? Slow to penetrate, huh? As BostonFNP's dad once said, learning without laughter is like a day without sunshine. NewFNP's day was full of sunshine with that one.

Bring on the double entendres, the dorky medical jokes, and the alcoholic beverages. Because newFNP is on edu-vacation!