Q&A with Debby Davidson, BA, BS, MA, ANCC FNP, Family Nurse Practitioner at the Women's Community Clinic
Debby Davidson is an FNP specializing in family and women's health in San Francisco, California. She has a BA in psychology, a BS in nursing, an MA in nursing and ANCC FNP Board Certification. Debby works at the Women's Community Clinic (http://www.womenscommunityclinic.org/), a facility that employs a volunteer-based business model to provide free healthcare services to women and girls in the Bay Area region. Debby has worked in women's health for more than 30 years, and loves that she gets to "be involved in people's healthcare and their efforts in building healthier and happier lifestyles."
Q: What was your path to becoming a nurse practitioner?
A: I first became an RN in the 1970s because I was excited by the variety of roles RNs could play in the area of community health. I was a psychiatric aide at the time and worked with RNs who were organizing and leading community mental health programs. While working as an RN both in hospital and community settings, I was always impressed with the quality of healthcare NPs provided to clients—their involvement in the client's family and community values in order to promote good healthcare. I went back to school in the 90s to become an NP.
Q: Can you describe the facility where you work?
A: The Women's Community Clinic is a small, but mighty, clinic with over 100 volunteers and about 30 staff members working to provide care to more than 3,500 women each year. We provide excellent healthcare to women who don't have health insurance and who lack access to care. Our facility highly values good communication and education, and understands the importance of spending time with clients.
Q: What kinds of services does the Women's Community Clinic offer?
A: We offer many different services for women and provide basic women's healthcare to females throughout the age span. We also provide acupuncture and behavioral health counseling. We are a volunteer-based organization, so we have many volunteers—both lay and clinical—which makes the clinic a great place for a person considering a career in the health field to gain experience. In addition to our clinical services, we provide outreach services to homeless and marginally housed women. We also offer young African American women mentorship and health career development opportunities through our Western Addition Health Training (WAHT) Program.
Q: What's it like working at the Women's Community Clinic?
A: It's really fun. The patients are always so appreciative. I find that our staff has a wonderfully good heart, a generous spirit and smart leadership.
Q: When and how did you start at the clinic?
A: I started working at the Clinic three and a half years ago. I had always heard great things about this clinic and when an NP job became available, I applied.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as an NP at Women's Community Clinic?
A: Most of my day is devoted to my clients—in client visits, answering phone calls, dealing with abnormal labs and doing referrals. I support the many volunteer clinicians that work with patients, work with the staff and volunteer front desk and health educators, and sometimes mentor student nurse practitioners or midwives.
Q: What types of patients/diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?
A: I see women from their late teens to ages up to 65 that don't have insurance. The most common diagnoses I encounter are: GYN vaginitis, UTIs, STIs, management of birth control, menopausal problems, depression symptoms and interpersonal relationship problems, and primary care problems which require referrals.
Q: Can you share a story about working in your profession?
A: Years ago, before cell phones, I'll never forget the time I called a teen client at home to inform her of her positive Chlamydia test. Her mom turned out to be a coworker from another job, and recognized my voice. I had to do some fast talking to preserve my client's privacy, yet maintain my credibility with my coworker! Although I really dislike how the ubiquitous use of cell phones disrupts everyday interactions, I love how they allow me to communicate with my clients more quickly. It is really interesting to see how the use of technology impacts my work, and healthcare in general.
Q: Are there other areas of clinical interest for you as an NP that you plan to pursue?
A: Prior to this job I was providing primary care—always a situation where you "know a little about everything." With this job, I am able to focus on GYN care and become more knowledgeable. I look forward to becoming more of an expert in GYN care as I continue to practice here.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as a nurse practitioner?
A: Providing good healthcare for women without insurance. There are an alarming number of women living without insurance, or who have only catastrophic health insurance. These women can't get the preventative medicine and the check-ups that they need. If a client needs special care that goes beyond the scope of the Clinic, there are so many obstacles to obtaining that care.
Q: What do you like most about your job? What do you dislike most?
A: I love witnessing a patient find their way towards solving their health problems or moving towards a healthier lifestyle. And I'm happy that I work with a team of smart, dedicated women who are all trying to provide these women with quality healthcare.
With that being said, I really wish I had more time to spend with patients. I hate ever having to cut things short.
Q: Are you currently involved with any research projects?
A: I'm involved in a study researching the effect that reproductive coercion in relationships have on a woman's ability to prevent infection and unwanted pregnancies. The study is examining whether clinician and counselor discussion about reproductive coercion can help a woman better make decisions and act upon them.
Q: Do you feel that the role of nurse practitioners has changed over recent years?
A: I think that nurse practitioners will take on a bigger role in future healthcare reform plans. NPs may take a bigger role in providing geriatric and chronic disease healthcare as the population ages.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to NPs today?
A: In the population that I serve—women without insurance—my greatest concern is seeing that these people get the care that they need.
Q: What is the most important thing you've learned over the course of your career?
A: That people are basically smart about themselves. You've got to listen. I always need to be open to new answers and new ways of doing things.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of becoming a nurse practitioner?
A: There's lots of room to grow and expand in your knowledge and area of expertise. There are also many opportunities to change direction. Do what interests you and makes you happy!
Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?
A: Fulfilling. I get to do what I want to do. I love to be involved in people's healthcare and their efforts in building healthier and happier lifestyles.
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