by James Coburn
Michelle Ellenburg says being a nurse practitioner is very fulfilling and satisfying.
“I have a lot of peace,” said Ellenburg, a family nurse practitioner with St. Anthony Physicians Internal Medicine and Family Practice Midtown Oklahoma City. Dealing with internal medicine, Ellenburg focuses on patients 18 or older because her supervising physician does the same.
“It can be anxiety producing and stressful at times,” she said. “But I feel that just makes me want to work harder to find a solution and try to work out a plan.”
Ellenburg earned her degree at the University of Oklahoma in 2015 where her expectations were met, she said. The program was challenging and Ellenburg felt confident to do her job as a nurse practitioner upon graduation, she said.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Kramer School of Nursing in 2009 on the campus of Oklahoma City University.
“Oh I love Kramer,” she said. “I’d say I’m probably a little bit more partial to Kramer. Their focus is a little bit more on students I would say. It’s more personalized. It’s a wonderful place.”
Ellenburg said students considering a career as a nurse practitioner should make sure it is the avenue of nursing they want to embrace. Nurses already have a general idea of the choices they have professionally, she said.
“I think it’s a great idea to shadow people,” she said. “I shadowed people in high school before I went to college or anything to make sure this is something I could see myself doing,” Ellenburg continued. “Focus and make sure you have good time management skills and a support system to help you get through it.”
She considered becoming a meteorologist when she was growing up. It was a fleeting dream for her when she was 10 years in age.
“But then I thought, ‘Nursing sounds kind of neat.’ I think that’s where God put my heart. I’ve always had a really big passion for it. I’m not going to say it came easy but it felt right,” Ellenburg said.
When she graduated from Kramer, Ellenburg immediately worked in an emergency medicine setting. She worked in an ER for about 18 months before accepting a role in a medical surgical ICU. She floated into neurological nursing while still working in an emergency room.
Ellenburg did one traveling assignment being assigned to an ICU. The culmination of her professional experience applies itself well to being a nurse practitioner. It prepared her critical thinking skills, she said.
Her mother had a close friend who was a nurse practitioner who encouraged her to pursue her title. She read more about the holistic approach of a nurse practitioner and set her goals.
Nurse practitioners are very assessable to their communities. Ellenburg said they will see every patient regardless of insurance and will accept Medicaid and Medicare.
“Sometimes there are issues getting in places and we are always available,” she noted. “I would never say I won’t accept your insurance or anything like that because I want to be assessible. I want to be able to help people and that’s why I got into what I do.”
Her practice brings her to help people with various conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, thyroid disorders, anxiety and depression and mental health in general. Being with St. Anthony Physicians helps her tremendously to facilitate her process of care. Each of the physicians at her office has their own nurse, assistant or an LPN. There is another nurse who works strictly with facilitating referrals.
“St. Anthony has really great resources and they usually work quickly about getting people in if they need to see a cardiologist. If they need to see a psychologist, there’s good processes in place that help get people in quickly,” she said.
Ellenburg asks a lot of questions in order to know each new patient well enough for an effective evaluation.
“I like to be pretty specific,” she said. “I like to know your history well. I like to make sure that we hit all the things that you want to talk about. So we go through all of that. It’s not just what’s your medical background or allergies. It’s a little more well rounded so I can get to know you.”
She wants to know about religious preference, marital status, profession and education in order to know a client as a person and not a statistic before her.
“That’s how I was taught. That’s how OU prepared us to do,” she said. “It’s to look at people that way. We’re definitely more holistic. It’s what makes people tick because if you don’t know and ask questions about family support or anything like that then you’re totally missing a whole notch.”
“Maybe they’re completely depressed and it’s because they have no support and they don’t have an income or they can’t afford to buy medicine. If you don’t factor all those things in you’re not going to take care of someone well.”
Ellenburg is preparing to start a project with St. Anthony that encompasses the screening of substance abuse. The project is being rendered across the nation in many hospitals, she said. St. Anthony is one of three hospitals in Oklahoma receiving grants for its implementation.
“We’ll be doing a lot more screening for nicotine abuse, alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety,” she said. “Those things trigger so many other health issues. If we don’t address those things then these things will always keep occurring.”