Arkansas Times
TEXT SIZE    A | A | A


Nursing Specialty Spotlight


WHAT IT IS: Apheresis is the term used for blood separation outside the body. Most of our procedures involve collecting the patient’s blood into a centrifuge where it is separated into cell layers for either collection or exchange purposes, such as stem cell collection for patients with multiple myeloma or lymphoma, red blood cell exchange for sickle cell disease, plasma exchange for patients with circulating antibodies or proteins that need to be removed.

Cynthia Knox

WHAT IT TAKES: To be a successful apheresis nurse you must be flexible. You must be able to use critical thinking to assess the patient’s lab and physical status to ensure a safe outcome for the patient. The apheresis RN must be able to troubleshoot the specialized machines and be able to handle any multitude of alarm situations and act quickly when they assess the patient has made a critical change in status.

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED: Typical orientation for an RN with critical care experience is at least eight weeks. Periodically there are specialty classes offered by the Society for Apheresis and machine manufacturers for more specialized training. The nurse must be able to perform the procedures independently with confidence before they are considered part of the staff. There is a special certification that can be obtained by exam from the American Society for Apheresis, and we are all ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) trained.

WHY I DO IT: Apheresis is very technical and challenging. The thing I like most about it is the interaction with the patients. Some of our procedures, the patients return every week for several months and you really get to know them and their families. We do much more than just the procedure. We become their support system and their cheerleaders when they become frustrated with their long-term illnesses and treatments.

Cynthia Knox, Rn, UAMS


Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

WHAT IT IS: PMHNPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with knowledge, skills and abilities to provide comprehensive mental health care to assess, diagnose and treat individuals across the lifespan with psychiatric and substance use disorders. Unique to PMHNPs is that they are trained to provide the full scope of behavioral health services that includes both medication management and psychotherapy.

WHAT IT TAKES: Along with a broad base of knowledge in the basic and behavioral sciences, PMHNPs need empathy, compassion and good communication and relationship skills. It’s also imperative to understand that “Whole health begins with mental health,” with the ability to leave judgment and bias at the door and know how to relate and communicate.

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED: PMHNPs are registered nurses (RNs) with advanced education at the master’s or doctoral level. PMHNP graduate programs vary, but typically take two to four years to complete, depending upon part versus fulltime and master’s versus doctoral degree. Individuals must pass a certification exam to be credentialed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a PMHNP. Thereafter, they are licensed by and receive prescriptive authority from their corresponding State Board of Nursing.

WHY I DO IT: I have always thought the mind was fascinating, and I enjoy trying to understand why people do what people do. I think it started when I read “Sybil” in the seventh grade; I knew then that I wanted to work in mental health. Individuals with mental illness are some of the most underserved in our nation, and if I can provide them an ear to listen, words of encouragement and some hope for recovery, I’ll continue to use my skillset and my voice to be an advocate for their wellness.

Sara Jones, Ph.D., APRN, PMHNP-BC, assistant professor, specialty coordinator: PMHNP Program, UAMS School of Nursing


Operating Room Nurse 

WHAT IT IS: Circulating nurses ensure all patient paperwork is completed, such as consent forms, history and physical notes and site verification. During the procedure, nurses may also document what takes place, patient positioning and other important data. They replenish surgical supplies as needed during the procedure. After the procedure, they verify instrument count, sponge counts and complete all charting. 

Baptist Health College operating room nurse training.

WHAT IT TAKES: For someone to be successful in the operating room you must be able to multitask. You need to be able to think ahead and be proactive in the needs of the operation. Excellent communication skills are very important when communicating with the surgeon, other staff members and also the patient’s family while the patient is still under anesthesia. To work in the operating room as a circulating nurse you must be a registered nurse.

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED: Baptist Health has an extensive orientation program for operating room nurses once they are employed.  Depending on your years of OR experience, you may become nationally certified. Certification is recognized by employers and demonstrates a standard of knowledge and experience in perioperative nursing. After working as an operating nurse for two years and passing an examination, accruing 2,400 hours of experience as an OR nurse, RNs may become certified.   

WHY I DO IT: I was in a car accident and when I looked down at my arm it was obviously broken. I had just left work in the OR and this time was being taken back to the OR in an ambulance where  I had to have surgery to fix the bones in my arm. Even though I already worked in orthopedic surgery, this accident made me realize the importance of being able to help people with all types of fractures and bone injuries. I’ve continued working in orthopedic surgery and enjoy it very much.

Bob Stobaugh RN, CNOR, orthopedic operating room nurse, Baptist Health College of Nursing 


Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)

WHAT IT IS: We are trained to work in many settings, from internal medicine, emergency department, ICUs or specialty clinics.

WHAT IT TAKES: The AGACNP must be able to use good clinical judgment and critical thinking skills, and be able to respond quickly and effectively in the event of decompensation in the patient. Skills learned during training include intubation, placement of central venous lines (CVLs), lumbar puncture, suturing, incision and drainage, chest tube insertion and joint injections.

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED: To complete the necessary components for the degree it usually takes three years. After completion of the degree and training requirements, you will be able to sit for board certification to become an Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner.

WHY I DO IT: I chose this area of specialty to learn about complex issues in health care and to be able to address the needs of my patients. It gives me the flexibility to work in an inpatient, outpatient or blended setting. The greatest adjustment was a change in thinking for me; I transitioned from taking orders as an RN to giving orders as an APRN.

Maeghan Arnold , MNSc, RN, APRN, AGACNP-BC, MNSc Clinical Instructor, UAMS College of Nursing


Critical Care/Intensive Care

WHAT IT IS: We take care of a wide range of patients including cases of pneumonia, heart attacks, sepsis, seizures, overdose/suicide, GI bleed, strokes, cardiac arrest and many others.

WHAT IT TAKES: For someone to be successful in the CCU/ICU they need to have the ability to critically think and multitask. We are a fast-paced unit that is always on the go and we need nurses who can adjust to this. You also need to have a passion to want to work with critically ill patients and their families.

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED: To work here takes a registered nurse with current, active Arkansas license, BSN preferred. RNs with less than one year of experience must obtain a BSN degree within four years of hire. For nurses we hire right out of nursing school, orientation is usually three months or longer; for nurses who already have CCU/ICU experience, orientation is usually four to six weeks. Before the end of orientation, nurses must be certified in BLS, ACLS, and complete the CRMC critical care class and cardiac dysrhythmia interpretation test.

WHY I DO IT: After working here for six years, I can’t imagine myself working anywhere else. I enjoy the fast pace of the unit and that you never know what type of patient and diagnosis you will take care of. I enjoy my co workers because we work well as a team and help each other out without complaint. .

Ashley Pierce, BSN, RN, CCRN, Conway Regional Medical Center CCU/ICU


Neonatal intensive care nurse (NICU)

WHAT IT IS: Taking care of pre-term teeny-tiny, newborns that are too sick for the newborn nursery.

Neonatal Intensive Care

WHAT IT TAKES: You need to have time management skills, critical thinking skills and the ability to pay attention to the details. These are tiny babies and they can’t tell you when something is wrong.

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED: You must be an RN to work in the unit and you will have a lengthy orientation period and a mentor. PALS and NALS is required, which is pediatric and neonatal life support certifications.

WHY I DO IT: I have always loved pediatric nursing and, more specifically, babies. The NICU is the best of both worlds. I get to take care of babies and I get to learn so many things along the way. It is medical-surgical nursing with tiny humans.

Kristina Shelton, RN, BSN, RN program instructor, National Park College


Nursing Notes

“Find sources for enthusiasm and seek out self-care techniques that work for you. Construct 1-year, 5-year and 10-year plans!! Think of nursing as a career, not a job.”

Sheila Stroman, Ph.D., RN, asistant professor
University of Central Arkansas, School of Nursing
Years in Nursing: 40


Sheila Stroman, Ph.D., RN
Home / Blogs / News / Entertainment / Dining / Guides / Archives / Multimedia / Ark. News / Classifieds / Contact