Students in field

Finlandia helping to meet growing need for nurse practitioners

June 27, 2018

Finlandia University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is helping to fill the growing demand for nurse practitioners in the workforce.

“Finlandia’s nursing program, which is an accredited bachelor’s degree nursing program, has a rigorous curriculum and large number of clinical hours that prepare our graduates for advanced degrees in nursing,” said Finlandia’s Nursing Department Chair Johnna Therrian. “For many of our students, obtaining their nurse practitioner (NP) license is their goal when they’re done.”

Obtaining a BSN from Finlandia sets students up for success in obtaining their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), the minimum requirement for receiving an NP license.

“Students have so much patient contact here,” said Therrian. “We don’t just have to use HAL, we have real patients they can talk to and take care of and assess. A nurse practitioner is going to need to be able to assess and communicate with a patient, and we can really push that here because the have opportunity.”

Therrian said FinnU’s rigorous curriculum helps prepare students for future learning; a claim former students can back up.

Clint Pakkala - Nurse practitioners

Clint Pakkala, Finlandia alumnus and nurse practitioner at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital

“Along with all of the valuable hands-on experience you receive at Finlandia, the coursework really prepares you for a rewarding career in nursing” said Finlandia alumnus and current nurse practitioner at Aspirus Keeweenaw Hospital and Clinics, Clint Pakkala, NP-C. “It’s a robust course. It’s a lot of mental and physical demand, and if you fall behind you’re in trouble. You have to stay on task, and that prepared me for my masters, the majority of which was all online. So you have to stay dedicated otherwise you just snowball.”

Pakkala obtained his MSN from Chamberlain College of Nursing and began his career as an orthopedic nurse practitioner at Aspirus Keweenaw this year. And while he took some time off in between pursuing his master’s, Pakkala credits Finlandia for preparing him and making the transition from undergrad to graduate studies easy.

“It was an easy transition to go back, even though it took me seven years to go back,” said Pakkala. “I still felt prepared school-wise to do that thanks to their program and the large amount of clinical hours they offer students.”

Laura Kent
(’17), an RN/BSN obstetrics and medical surgery nurse at Aspirus Keweenaw who is currently pursuing her MSN degree at the University of Michigan-Flint, also credited Finlandia for providing a solid educational foundation in nursing.

“Finlandia definitely helped me prepare for NP school,” said Kent, who is in her second semester of the program. “For example, in my pathophysiology class last semester, I knew a lot of content without having to memorize the book because Finlandia set me up for that.”

Across the country, the demand for primary health care professionals is increasing at a rapid pace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners will see job growth of 36 percent from 2016-2026. The average percent change in employment for all occupations in that time is expected to be seven percent, making the nursing field one of the fastest growing occupations.

Like medical doctors (MDs), nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medication. The main differences between MDs and NPs is the amount of schooling required and salary. Obtaining an MD can take as many as 11 years in graduate studies with a median salary of over $200,000 a year. In comparison, NPs spend an additional two to four years in graduate studies and make on average of just over $100,000 a year.

For rural communities, pay is a large factor in recruiting NPs over MDs.

“Mid-levels are needed in places that don’t have doctors available because they can’t pay what the doctors want,” said Therrian. “Especially in rural communities, you have a hard time recruiting physicians. If they work in more urban areas, it’s less call, more pay so they’ll have more free time. In rural areas, it’s going to be a more call because there are fewer physicians and you are constantly going to be asked to do more than you may be in an urban area.

“So those people in rural areas need healthcare too and some are driving an hour to get to their closest healthcare place. It’s a big thing, but midlevels are stepping in to solve that problem.”

For Pakkala, working as an NP is incredibly challenging but even more rewarding.

“It’s a big need and it’s an improved professional responsibility and you can have a huge impact on somebody’s life” said Pakkala. “In orthopedics, you have a very positive and direct impact on somebody’s life and you can see these changes almost immediately. It’s a lot about quality of life and getting these people back to what they love to do.”

For Kent, being in NP school is challenging her personally and professionally, and helping fulfill her goals of providing holistic patient care.

“What I like most about NP school thus far, is that it’s taking what I already know from Finlandia, and from nursing in general, and it accelerates it so you’re able to connect it with what you already know,” she said. “It’s a rewarding feeling to continue climbing the ladder and growing as a person, a nurse and a nurse practitioner.”

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