Minnesota Nursing magazine
The privilege to care
Hope Ukatu, DNP ‘12, says it was her father’s example of serving his community that inspired her to find a career where she could help people. “As a nurse practitioner, I work hard to ensure patients feel they are cared for,” said Ukatu. She now balances her work as a nurse practitioner serving older adults with raising five children and serving as vice president of the Anambra State Association in Minnesota, a nonprofit organization for Nigerian immigrants. We asked her what she likes about working in gerontology, what it takes to be an outstanding nurse practitioner and how her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree helps her patients.
You’ve practiced with HealthPartners Geriatrics since 2002. What do you enjoy about working with older adults?
Older adults are national treasures, each uniquely made. They possess a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and grace, so I consider it a privilege to care for them. In them, I see my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Through their past medical histories and procedures, I can gain insight to our past medical practices. Their present state of health is a testimony to the advancement of our modern medicine. For instance, older patients in their late 80s-90s are now able to undergo major surgeries, as long as they are medically stable. Age alone is no longer a reason to preclude surgical procedures. Working with them gives me joy, a sense of pride and fulfillment.
There is a well-documented shortage of practitioners specializing in gerontology. How does that affect you as a practitioner specializing in gerontology?
The shortage of practitioners in gerontology has not really affected my practice, but it is a trend that should raise concern. As the baby boomers grow older, we will need even more providers. I believe that the current shortage is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed by all stakeholders, who should provide leadership and incentives for potential providers who are willing to consider specializing in gerontology. Doing so will help decrease the shortage and hopefully, over time, eliminate the shortage altogether.
You earned your postmaster’s DNP degree from the University of Minnesota in 2012. How has the degree affected the way you practice?
The degree has undoubtedly influenced my practice positively in so many ways. It sharpened my analytical skills working with research findings and their applications in my daily practice. The application of sound scientific knowledge has appreciably facilitated procurement of better clinical outcomes for my patients. It has made me a better health care resource steward, as I now order tests, treatments and procedures that are evidence-based. Finally, it gives me some sense of accomplishment.
You are a mentor to DNP students here at the University of Minnesota. Why is that important for you?
Very simply, when I reflect back on my journey as a nursing student, I tend to appreciate the mentorship that I received. My mentors left indelible positive impressions on me, hence giving me the strong desire to help mentor and prepare others to be their best. I believe it is the right thing to do and hopefully will inspire others to follow suit.
In addition to being a nurse practitioner, you are a wife and mother with five children and you are the vice president of the Anambra State Association in Minnesota. What do you do to avoid burnout?
Yes, I am happily married and blessed with five beautiful children. Family has been my corner stone; they have loved, encouraged and supported every endeavor I have embarked on. I feel that when you have the support and love of your family, you are balanced and driven by clearer purpose in life. Managing my time between family, work and community involvement has not been easy, but being creative brings me happiness and a sense of balance, which gives me the energy to keep going. With personal commitments in balance, there is no room for a burnout.
You recently were named a finalist for the Outstanding Nurse Award in the nurse practitioner category by Mpls. St. Paul Magazine. What do you think makes an outstanding nurse practitioner?
I was surprised to read about the nomination in the first place. I only keep doing my job the best way I know how and the nomination activities never crossed my mind. However, one thing I will tell you is that I am humbled and very thankful to God who makes all good things happen. In my opinion, an outstanding nurse practitioner is the provider who honestly treats patients and families with love, respect and dignity. The provider must be dependable, productive and a team player.