From registered nurse to a nurse practitioner: a story of triumph and resilience

A report by Aaron Gautreau

Ashley Prues’ journey of becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) has not been easy. Working as a full-time registered nurse (RN) at Norfolk General Hospital’s Emergency Department and ICU, Ashley was also tasked with raising two small children and going to school at the same time. But thanks to the support from her husband Joel, her family, and co-workers, Ashley was able to push past the many challenges presented before her and was recently crowned as a nurse practitioner after completing four years of studies at Athabasca University. “It’s always been on my horizon to become an NP,” said Ashley. “I like the independence and the challenge that comes along with the position. Being an NP brings more responsibility and more challenges which I enjoy. But also, you look after people beyond their physical ailments – you’re looking after their social supports, their physiological and emotional issues – there’s just so much more that you get to deal, and help people with.”

For as long as Ashley can remember, she wanted to help people and to learn more about the human body. At first, she was leaning towards becoming a physician, but after seeing the critical role nurses played at NGH as a volunteer, Ashley changed the course of her life’s direction.

“I always knew I wanted to do something with healthcare. I was leaning towards being a doctor at first, but it was a lot of schooling and I didn’t know if I had it in me. I started exploring more options and I came to NGH as a volunteer and also did my co-op here so when I saw what the nurses were doing I thought to myself maybe that’s my way to get into healthcare and I explored it further and really enjoyed it.”

Born and raised in Norfolk County, Ontario (Delhi) Ashley attended Western University and graduated as a registered nurse (RN) in 2011. After completing her program, Ashley was hired at her hometown hospital to be an RN in the ED and ICU. For the past ten years, Ashley has helped treat injuries, infections, and other serious conditions like heart attacks and life-threatening injuries to stabilize patients. She also has worked tirelessly with our staff to combat COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Becoming an NP has always been on Ashley’s mind. She knew she had the work experience, but she also knew it would require more schooling. When Ashley was on maternity leave about five years ago that’s when she decided to further her education. Her dream ultimately paid off, and after years of determination and hard work, Ashley recently received her Nurse Practitioner diploma at Athabasca University. Ashley plans to use her new skill set to offer more healthcare options for the residents of Norfolk County.

“I hope that it opens up the avenues for our hospital that they see how beneficial NPs are to the care of patients and maybe start incorporating them into more areas. Just for the community in general, we don’t have a lot of primary care which we see are coming into the emergency department for primary care issues. I think there is a place for NPs within our community and a big part of that will be at the hospital to provide more options for care.”

At a time when jobs in healthcare are in high demand, Ashley said she wanted to stay at NGH because it’s a place where you get to use all the skills you learned in nursing school. Working in ICU and Emergency, Ashley said she got to do it all and says NGH is a great place for nurses young and old to advance their careers. She had this message for anyone thinking of joining the NGH family.

“Don’t dismiss us because we are a small hospital. I taught a couple of classes of nursing students here and a lot of them didn’t want to come because it was a bit of a drive, it was a small hospital, but 95 percent of them left saying that was a great placement and learned a lot. They were also shocked by the amount of work we do at NGH. I don’t think everyone understands how much we do here until they come.”

Ashley’s dedication and commitment to providing excellent patient care to our community are well documented. She knows firsthand how fortunate we are to have a community hospital like NGH and says she will strive to give every patient that enters our doors with the proper care they deserve.

“I think this community is lucky to have a hospital like Norfolk General. I try to explain to a lot of patients in the emergency department that not many small communities have a hospital that can offer the services that we do. We are not a cardiac centre or a dialysis centre, but if you are in an emergency, people have a place to go. You have the staff that can treat you for those things and can get you to where you need to go. A lot of people don’t think about that. If you’re having a heart attack or a stroke, you’re a long way from the city, so without our hospital, a lot of people would be without care and services.”

Thank you, Ashley, for leading by example and for your dedication and care to helping patients at Norfolk General Hospital these past ten years.

About Nurse practitioners:

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses who have additional education and nursing experience, which enables them to: Autonomously diagnose and treat illnesses. Order and interpret tests. Prescribe medications and much more. They consult and collaborate with physicians and other health care professionals to meet the needs of the patient population. Chronic disease management, health promotion, and illness prevention, as well as helping patients navigate through the health care system are integral to their approach to patient care.

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