by James Nicholson

Recently I spent two days in Charleston at a Nurse Practitioner Associates for Continuing Education (NPACE) conference on pharmacology. The conference was a great opportunity for me to network, speak with industry vendors, and review pharmacology relevant to primary care before taking my nurse practitioner (NP) boards this summer. The topics that the speakers covered included: hypertension/lipid disorders, asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), thyroid and hypogonadism, diabetes mellitus, birth control, sexually transmitted infections, menopause, vaginitis, and geriatric pharmacology. All of the speakers were engaging and leaders in their fields of specialty as evidenced by their research, publishing, experience, and extensive education.

Speaker Karen Dick, GNP-BC, who works at Hebrew Senior Life in Boston, provided a much-needed emphasis on the importance of medication reconciliation and review, especially in the older population. Her focus on safe use of selective serotonin receptor inhibitors with the elderly, along with patient anecdotes, was useful in considering the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of drugs within this population as well as the importance of screening for depression. Speaker Sally K. Miller, FNP-BC, provided some great insight into managing COPD and asthma in a primary care setting. Of particular interest to me, she reviewed the indications for treatment and diagnosis, as well as the usefulness of performing FEV1 and FVC tests in the office, which I learned is underutilized in primary care. However, as with many chronic illnesses, the treatment for these also relies on a good history and assessment of subjective symptoms from the patient.

Throughout the conference I sat next to NPs from various states in varying specialties. Many had been in the nursing industry for decades, but were also interested to hear from me about the environment for new grads in Boston. All were encouraging to me, even despite the perceived stigma of completing a direct entry program without any real nursing experience. By chance I also bumped into an old friend from Washington D.C. who is an NP and one of the many who inspired me to pursue this career.

The conference was a great way to begin my career as I finish up BC’s family NP program. I have gotten a first-hand look at the benefits of continuing education, the huge potential for networking, and above all a better understanding on where leaders in the field go to share their knowledge and research. The speakers had taken different paths but all had education and research in common. This will most certainly be the first of many more NPACE conferences to come.