Elizabeth Donahue, RN, MSN, NP-C   

Practice Specialty:
Family Medicine

Practice Location:
Brigham and Women’s
Primary Care Associates Longwood
Boston, MA

Describe why you chose to become an NP.

I worked in public health research for a few years after finishing college. The particular focus of our research group was in racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare delivery and uptake. I had the privilege during that time of implementing programs that reduced barriers and improved access to care under many different models. And I also was able to witness first-hand interactions between patients and various members of the healthcare teams. It was clear watching the NPs involved in our work that they understood and incorporated both the science (knowledge, skills) and the art (building relationships, seeing patients as people) of medicine into their practice. 

Describe a situation in which you made a meaningful difference in the lives of one of your patients.

I inherited a patient from another care provider who had been depressed and on an SSRI for over 10 years. Despite treatment, she still scored very high on her depression screenings and felt she had very little quality of life in terms of relationships, job satisfaction, etc. She was doing “fine” but she was not thriving. I suggested we try a different medication and she felt that this would be futile because the medicine she had been on had “helped” but hadn’t “solved” the problem. After working with her over the course of months, she developed enough trust in me to allow me to try a different psychiatric medication. When she came for her follow up visit, the change was obvious. She was more engaged and joyful. She thanked me many times for not having given up on her – not feeling like “this was the best we could do.” She stated over and over again that she never knew she could feel so good and that life could be this way. We don’t always have big or dramatic wins in primary care – but investing in this patient and her outcomes meant a lot to both of us.

What do you think is the best part of being a Nurse Practitioner?

I value the relationships I have formed with patients over time – seeing them move on in their careers, build families, enjoy retirement and more.  I am also continually amazed at how much patients feel they can trust and confide in me.  It is a great privilege to be allowed into the lives of others in this intimate way.

Describe your greatest practice challenge in the current healthcare environment.

As an NP, I still explain and defend my role a great deal. Though most patients are familiar with our positions and our work, some still need help understanding what I do and what I can bring to the table. I have the exceptional good luck to work within a group that allows for my independent practice – I am an empaneled provider currently. But this raises challenges now and then from both internal and external forces that require me to advocate for my role and my practice. I am hoping that we will continue to remove barriers to NP practice through legislation and education.

What is the best advice you have been given or would give to a student entering the profession?

I usually tell students to be clear about what their skill sets are and make sure that they are comfortable selling those. Let employers, colleagues, and patients know what your strengths are and what you feel passionate about. The rest will come with time and experience. But don’t undersell yourself just because you’re new in the role – you have education, training and life experience no matter what stage of your career you are in!