Amanda Jurls, our next SHEserves guest blogger, moved to Nashville from Montgomery, Alabama in 2011 to attend nursing school at Vanderbilt University and has been working as a PMHNP (psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner–say that five times fast) since 2013, specializing in child and adolescent care. Amanda loves her precious American bulldog-boxer mix named Bob (P.S. Bob’s a girl) and spends way too much time trying out new make up and skin care.
Hello Young&BosSHE readers! I am really honored to write a little something for this month’s post. So, to introduce myself, I am Amanda Jurls MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC. To tell you a little bit about myself, I will tell you what all those letters mean: I have a Masters of Science in Nursing from Vanderbilt University, and I am a Registered Nurse as well as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in the state of Tennessee. I also have a Board Certification as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. I have been working in Davidson and Wilson counties for the last 5 years treating children and adolescents (and the occasional adult) with psychiatric and mental healthcare needs.
I have always had an interest in psychology and mental illness. It’s something my family has dealt with a lot, and something I have, as a result, always felt very open talking about. I was completing my Bachelor’s degree in psychology and wondering what my next steps would be (because truthfully it isn’t very easy to get a job in the field of psychology without pursing a Master’s degree). I loved my regular psych classes, but I really fell in love with my neuro-psych classes. Studying the brain, how medications and disease states and emotions and basically EVERYTHING in our life affects our brain…it was really fascinating. I knew I didn’t want to go to medical school, it just never felt like the right choice for me, so I looked into other options and nursing seemed like the perfect fit. Honestly not a single one of my friends or family members said they could have ever imagined me being a nurse. Sometimes that felt a little discouraging… but I really connected with the nursing model of healthcare. Everything is patient-centric.
You treat a person, not an illness.
I saw myself treating patients with schizophrenia in a prison population. And I was lucky to be able to get an internship with the very population I was most interested in working with. But for a variety of reasons, including some of it just hitting too close to home based on my family’s experiences, that just wasn’t something I could see myself doing long term. I never really imagined myself working with children. I knew I had to do a child/adolescent internship at Vanderbilt, because a PMHNP is trained to treat the lifespan, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it. I interned with a school-based therapist at a local Nashville elementary school, and WOW… I really had no idea what I was in for. Suffice it to say, working with children changed my life, and I quickly told my professors at Vanderbilt that I wanted to change my primary population of interest to child and adolescent.
And that was that. I have treated children, adolescents, and adults with intellectual and development disabilities since that time. I was incredibly lucky to work with a psychiatrist for my first 5 years in practice who specialized in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), Dr. Lynna Hollis. Her expertise and passion with that population was a huge influence for me.
There are so many parts of my job that bring me so much joy.
Talking with kids is honest and hilarious.
My greatest joy is feeling like I helped a patient. Sometimes that looks like treating ADHD effectively and seeing a kid feel successful at school for the first time, sometimes it’s modeling appropriate social interactions for a kid with autism and watching them successfully introduce themselves to a new person, sometimes it’s providing relief from the overwhelming fear of hallucinations that your mind can’t control, sometimes it’s working through the weight of depression and anxiety and celebrating a week or even a day without suicidal ideations. And sometimes it’s just letting a patient know that someone is on their side and supports them.
Unfortunately, working in mental healthcare, and especially community mental health care (which is underfunded and understaffed), can also be heartbreaking.
There are so many obstacles. When you work with children it ACTUALLY means you work with the child, their parents and their teachers. You often also work with their therapist, their case manager, their DCS worker… it’s rarely simple. It takes a village, right? Many times (but not always!) when you treat an adult: the adult walks into your office, you speak to them, the two of you develop a plan, you see them next time. There are way more moving parts when it comes to a child’s care or a patient without the intellectual ability to traditionally communicate how they feel or what they need. The time constraints of working in a clinic and having a tight schedule every day (I see 15-20 patients most days) combined with the fact that many patients need more time than a 15-20 minute appointment allows for can be very frustrating. It’s draining. I wish I could write about how to balance life with an emotionally demanding career, but I can’t. Because I’m genuinely not very good at it, and that’s just the honest truth.
Working as a public servant, a nurse practitioner, and a mental health provider is my calling (that’s cheesy). And if you think it’s your calling too, then it probably is (because you’d have to be crazy to do this job if you didn’t love it!). My advice would be:
- INTERN!! Get hands on experience before committing to something and finding out that it doesn’t fulfill you, or it emotionally taxes you in a way that isn’t healthy or sustainable.
- SELF-CARE!! I know I said I’m not good at it, and that’s true… but I need to be better at it. Anyone in healthcare or mental healthcare or any public service NEEDS self-care. Humor, friendship, a nice dinner, a long walk, a trashy reality show…. it all makes you a healthier provider. (That is how I convince myself that Keeping up with the Kardashians makes me a healthier provider).
One of my favorite sayings and something I share with patients often is, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Keep your cup filled so you can share it with others… mine is filled with Chardonnay 😉 .
If you are interested in learning more about mental healthcare resources or careers, or just have questions, contact Amanda via email: firstname.lastname@example.org