“I love what I do. I see patients, I take care of patients from an holistic approach, which is what nurse practitioners do,” said Shunta Johnson, RN, BSN, MSN, FNP. She is a nurse practitioner for BJC Health Care, which takes her to locations in Missouri and Illinois, including Alton Memorial Convenient Care, Missouri Baptist Medical Center Orthopedics/Surgical Evaluation, and BJC Healthcare Pain Management Center in St. Louis. She also does home health assessments as a nurse practitioner for a private practice physician.
Collaborating physicians review a certain percentage of a nurse practitioner’s notes, Johnson said, and they have to sign off on certain things.
“For instance, when I come in and I’m seeing patients, I chart all my patients, I prescribe medications, I’ll order tests, I retest. I do everything that he does, but I have to send a certain percentage of those patients that I saw to him,” Johnson said of the collaborating physician. “He is overseeing, and he needs to make sure my charting is what it’s supposed to be and I’m ordering the tests I’m supposed to be ordering – just making sure I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Johnson provides physical assessments and diagnosis of common health conditions and has prescriptive authority as delegated by the collaborating physician. In her role as a nurse practitioner, Johnson is able to move beyond being an advocate for a patient to a decision-making role.
“I decided to go from a nurse to a nurse practitioner, just because I wanted to change the level of care that I could offer my patient,” Johnson said. “As a nurse I am actually carrying out the orders that the doctors have written, and as a nurse practitioner I am actually ordering the orders. For me, it gives me a little bit more control over my patient, so, when I have a patient that I feel needs more care, instead of me acting as a nurse advocate, I am now the provider for that patient.”
Johnson previously worked as a nurse in corrections, occupational health, ophthalmology, pre-delivery, a K-6 school and as a traveling nurse.
Despite limitations on the scope of work performed by nurse practitioners that vary by state, Johnson is in agreement with research that indicates that nurse practitioners will figure prominently in the wave of the future for health care.
“They’ve predicted that nurse practitioners will actually take the place of primary care physicians, and primary care physicians will be shifting more to concierge medicine or more specialized areas,” Johnson said. “And that’s why you see so many nurse practitioners in a primary care office.”
At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Johnson completed the Family Nurse Practitioner Program, earning a master of science as well as a bachelor of science in nursing there, after an associate degree in Nursing at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.
Johnson is certified in women’s health, pediatrics, psychiatric, adult and geriatric health, pain management, wound care, and smoking cessation. She has worked for Barnes-Jewish for more than 20 years.
“As a health care provider, we have an opportunity to reach so many people on so many different levels, and I just advise all health care providers to touch each and every patient, individually, in a special way, as much as you can,” she said. “Not everybody has the opportunity to see people in a fragile state like that, and having that opportunity is not something we should take lightly.”