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Palliative Care at UnitedHealth Group: Q&A with Nurse Practitioner, Gregg S.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Across the US, the approach to end-of- life care is growing more sophisticated and compassionate every day. Today, especially in companies like ours, Nurse Practitioners are working with providers to give comfort and relief to patients while ensuring that they receive care that's aligned to their wishes. UnitedHealth Group chatted with Palliative Care NP, Gregg S. to provide real insight about a Palliative Care career path.

Q1. What is a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner?

A Palliative Care Nurse has a passion for end-of-life care and advocating for their patients well-being. Often times, care providers forget that Palliative Care is not hospice and patients are still actively seeking treatment for their disease. No matter where you are at in your career journey, it’s important to always have the right mindset about what your job as a Palliative Care Nurse involves. The job of a Palliative Care Nurse is to decrease their symptoms as much as possible and to educate the patient as well as their friends and family on what Palliative Care will provide.

Q2. What does a typical day look like as a Palliative Care NP?

Truthfully, there is no such thing as a typical day in Palliative Care. As an established NP you become accustom to expecting one thing to happen, but having to re-route your plan for the day. If you are a newer Palliative Care NP, one thing you can count on is to expect to see about 6 patients a day.

Q3. What does it take to be successful in your job?

As a Palliative Care Nurse, communication is the key to being successful. You must communicate effectively with your patients about their goals and education. Your patients are number one and can really help you become an advocate for their treatment plan. You also need to exceed in communication with the referring Physician and immediate team. Your team could include social workers, chaplains, counselors, and other NP’s. This is important to keep everyone on the same page, and share the knowledge needed for the well-being of the patient.

Q4. Why is compassion important to you?

What keeps me compassionate is caring for every single person no matter who they are, and what their circumstances were.

Q5. What’s the most important thing someone should know before joining our company?

Be prepared from some slower days and some extremely busy days. You also need to be prepared to do a number of tasks you may not think about. At the end of the day, you are still a Nurse with compassion.

Q6. What are some of the greatest challenges of your job and how do use your personal strengths overcome them?

As a Nurse there are several challenges you will face each day. Specifically in Palliative Care, a challenge I face is overcoming the mindset that I will not make everyone 100% better. A personal strength of mine that helps overcome this hurdle is delivering realistic communication to your patients. Next, flexibility poses a big challenge. Being open to every situation and never assuming is necessary to deliver the best care. Lastly, but perhaps the most important challenge we face as Nurses is self-care. Remember to take the personal steps necessary to remain healthy and continue being a strong Palliative Care nurse.

Q7. Describe the work environment at UnitedHealth Group and how does it help you thrive in your career?

The work environments for this career always keep you on your toes as it can take you several different places. You could be consulting in a hospital setting handling difficult conversations about hospice situations or you could be working in Assisted Living or a patient’s home. To thrive in these environments it is important to remember that YOU are the guest. The patient and their family are the experts in their disease and what they want.

Q8. How have you grown at UnitedHealth Group?

I started out as a Hospice RN and then a Hospice NP. From there I went on to become a Hospice CSM and moved up to the Hospice Associate Director. Most recently I was employed with Optum as a CPM (Complex Population Management) NP and am now looking to return back to Hospice as a CSM (Clinical Services Manager). There are many different paths a Nurse may take in Palliative Care!

Q9. What is your most memorable learning from being a Palliative Care Nurse?

Every situation is an opportunity not only to teach something, but to learn something!

Q10. Where can candidates learn more about being an NP at UnitedHealth Group?

You can find open Nurse Practitioner job opportunities on our Careers site. Also, don't forget to complete the Network With Us form to get monthly job updates with information on how UnitedHealth Group looks for better ways to care, think and succeed.

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