Joelle Frizzera is an adult nurse practitioner serving the skilled nursing home population for Evercare (part of Optum) in Elkridge, Maryland. She received her BSN from Curry College in 1989 and MSN/Adult Nurse Practitioner certification from Johns Hopkins University in 1996. Joelle has been in nursing for 25 years and says the most rewarding part of her job is “being a patient advocate.”
Q: Who motivated you to become a nurse practitioner?
A: My grandmother graduated from Purdue University as a pharmacist and had always told me to get a depression-proof job. She also encouraged me to pick a profession that was flexible and appropriate for raising a family. She has been a fabulous mentor and still gives great advice about the healthcare industry.
Q: Can you talk about the company you work for, Evercare?
A: It is a large, mission-driven corporation. We help people live healthier lives. Our organization provides healthcare to long-term residents in nursing homes. We are part of the provider organization, providing services to a Medicare Advantage Plan. We believe in good quality outcomes and increased collaboration between healthcare providers. The Evercare Nurse Practitioners provide educational in-services to staff members and focus on advanced illness training. We spend hours informing our patients and family members about the nature of their disease and provide the support needed to help transition between stages of illness.
The residents enrolled in the UnitedHealthcare Nursing Home Plan receive special benefits outlined by the health plan, and most importantly, the residents receive an Evercare Nurse Practitioner who helps manage their care and provide constant communication to family and facility staff. The Evercare Nurse Practitioner is a very special individual who must wear many hats. Each and every one of our NPs is very special and spends many hours providing the families and patients with that special touch!
Q: What’s it like working for Evercare?
A: We work in many facilities throughout Maryland and each facility is very different; however, the Evercare Nurse Practitioner provides the same care in every nursing home.
Q: When and how did you start with this organization?
A: I started as an Evercare Nurse Practitioner about three years ago and have continued to feel passionate about the organization and its mission.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as an NP?
A: As an Evercare Nurse Practitioner, I am responsible for 80 to 100 patients that live in a nursing home. My patients are typically the frail, elderly population. My responsibilities include diagnosis and treatment of any acute illness and constant management of chronic illness. The Evercare Nurse Practitioner spends time with patients and family discussing and implementing a plan of care. I might have to sit at the bedside with a dying resident and give comfort to loved ones.
Q: What types of diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?
A: Our patients have dementia, congestive heart failure, COPD, Parkinson’s disease, multiple psychiatric diagnosis, failure to thrive, hypertension, diabetes, hypercholestremia, traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s.
Q: Do you have a motivational story about working in healthcare?
A: My grandmother graduated from Purdue University in 1940 and was one of the first female pharmacists. She has continued to be a great mentor. She also encouraged me to continue to work at least one day a week, even when my kids were small. Now that my children are older and the economy has been tough, I’m so grateful to have a full-time job that I love. (A special thank you to my grandmother who is 93 years old and still my biggest fan!)
Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as an NP, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?
A: I have continued to expand my knowledge regarding the geriatric patient and have a special interest in wound treatment. I am very involved with promoting the Evercare Nurse Practitioner and the value we bring to the patient and the facility.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as a nurse practitioner?
A: We have multiple challenges; however, the greatest challenge is getting the physicians, nurses and families to agree on the same plan of care. We spend hours talking to each party involved and can still have challenges aligning on what is the right thing for the patient.
Q: What do you like most about your job? What do you dislike most?
A: I like the smile on my patient’s face when he/she is comfortable and I know I was responsible for that smile. I dislike my job when I can’t make my patients comfortable due to increased procedures and unnecessary medical treatments. My patients are elderly and usually prefer comfort.
Q: Are you currently involved with any research projects? Are there any projects that you would like to be involved with?
A: I’m involved with wound care solutions for nursing home patients. I would like to start a research project involving a certified wound care nurse practitioner and treatment of patients in the nursing home.
Q: Do you feel that the role of nurse practitioners has changed over recent years?
A: Yes, the role has expanded and nurse practitioners are providing value to healthcare reform. We have been identified as a solution to increase access to care for individuals without a provider.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to NPs today?
A: Nurse practitioners are now going to need to complete a doctorate in nursing. Starting in 2015, we will be called DNPs instead of NPs. There is concern about how we will be viewed and what title we will use.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The most rewarding part of my job is being a patient advocate. We work for the patient and continue to provide quality care and fabulous communication. Our families and patients love the care and attention they receive, and it is very rewarding.
Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your career?
A: To listen first! Then respond slowly.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of becoming a nurse practitioner?
A: The role of the nurse practitioner is very valuable and rewarding. I highly recommend the profession. However, I would take your time, and gain experience and knowledge every step of the way. Nurse practitioners provide excellent care and are great clinicians because of the process they must go through to get their degree. The nursing profession is divided into multiple stages for a reason.
Q: How has working in this specialty allowed you to grow professionally?
A: Having spent 15 years as a nurse practitioner and 10 years as an RN, this process has helped me to develop a compassionate, caring ability to manage other healthcare professionals. I am able to share my knowledge and experience with others, in addition to promoting quality care for elderly residents in nursing homes.
Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?
A: Compassion. You must be compassionate about your patients, profession and employer’s mission.