1. Staggs, Michelle APRN, MNSC, ACNP-BC, CCRN, CEN

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I NEVER thought I would be taking a management position again 32 years into my career. But, here I am, starting a new job as the nurse manager for Orthopedics and Spine Services at CHI St Vincent in Little Rock, Arkansas. What surprises some people is that the position I am leaving is the Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner. I loved that job, too, and this change is just another example of how nurses have so much opportunity to practice our profession in a variety of very different jobs, that are all based on the art and science of caring for others.


Years ago, I thought that I would be a physician because the culture of my childhood led me to believe in a certain image of physicians that was appealing. In fact, I had little firsthand knowledge of any career in health care. I was able to attend college at a liberal arts university far beyond the financial capability of my family because of academic scholarships and federal grants, all the while continuing to pursue a dream of medical school. When I was a junior in college, a fellow student and friend shared her professional goal to be a nurse. As we talked about her dream of becoming a nurse, I quickly realized that what she described as nursing was my actual calling as well. It seemed like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, as quite literally, my heart for nursing was discovered.


After graduating with my BSN (a couple of years after I had completed my BA in Biology), I began my career as a new graduate nurse in the emergency department. I loved it! I had great mentors who helped me not only evolve my nursing skills but also to discover and develop my identity as a nurse. These men and women truly helped me become the nurse I am today.


My nursing "bug" and my adrenaline "bug" combined to drive me toward flight nursing. The right set of circumstances led me to become a flight nurse with one of the pioneer aeromedical transport services in Arkansas. In this role, I became an educator, a manager, and a leader as well as a direct caregiver. What might amaze many people outside of health care (and maybe some nonnurse colleagues inside health care) is that these roles were all part of my responsibilities as a nurse! As I continued my professional development, I also had opportunities to serve as an elected leader of both the Arkansas Emergency Nurses Association and the Arkansas chapter of the American Nurses Association. Both of these experiences allowed me to learn from esteemed colleagues more about the challenging but rewarding side of serving the nursing profession. Within the framework of my employer's health care corporation, I became the Chief Flight Nurse for the aeromedical transport program, and the manager for Emergency Services. Because of my involvement with emergency medical services and emergency nursing, I was appointed by the governor of Arkansas to successive terms as the nursing representative on the Governor's Advisory Council for Emergency Medical Services.


Though I continued to learn and grow as a registered nurse, I realized that I wanted more from my profession. This desire to grow led me to a decision to pursue an advanced nursing degree. When I began my journey into graduate nursing education, I simply thought I just "wanted the credential," as a clinical nurse specialist. I was fortunate to have faculty advisors and mentors who counseled me that my skill set and my personality were a great fit for the advanced practice specialty of acute care nurse practitioner. My advisor "switched" me to the acute care tract, and I've never looked back! Sixteen years after completing my BSN, I finished my graduate nursing program of study and received my Master of Science in Nursing. I successfully completed the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification.


As a nurse practitioner, I have been blessed with great opportunities. I have had the privilege to work with both an interventional cardiologist and a pulmonary/critical care physician. I spent a little over 3 years practicing with each of these team-oriented physicians. They encouraged me to continue to evolve as an ACNP and willingly mentored me so that I could further develop many critical skills important for an advanced practice nurse. These included enhanced time management, provider role expectations, and an evolved critical thinking ability. Most recently, I have utilized these skills as the Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner for CHI St Vincent in Little Rock, Arkansas.


I have had many opportunities to continue to evolve as an ACNP, and as a leader in Nursing. Locally and nationally, I have had the opportunity to interact with smart and dedicated registered nurses, including other advanced practice nurses. These interactions have continued to inspire me to challenge myself to do more and to follow God's direction for my life. When the opportunity was offered to assume a formal management position, I felt the push and pull to do more and to continue serving others as a manager. That's why I accepted my latest role. For the past 32 years I've been called to be a front-line emergency nurse, a flight nurse, an advanced nurse practitioner, and a nurse manager. Every job has been right for me. This wasn't the career I originally thought I would pursue, but it's withy gratitude and joy I can say at the end of the day, I AM A NURSE!