Mark Schultz completes his journey this spring and graduates in a Master of Nursing - Nurse Practitioner - photo courtesy Mark Schultz
UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 5 | May 1, 2008
From Fishing Grounds to a Nurse’s Rounds
By Catherine Loiacono
It’s a long way from being captain of a commercial fishing boat in Alaska to a Master of Nursing -- Nurse Practitioner Degree at UBC, but Mark Schultz completes the journey this spring.
“You can find your calling in the most interesting places,” says Schultz. “My experiences so far have demonstrated that you never know where you will be and your background might not dictate your eventual career path.”
The adventure began when Mark met a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the remote Alaskan fishing village of Dillingham.
The Seattle native recalls being impressed by health improvements the NP made in Alaskan communities. As advanced practice nurses, NPs can assess, diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications and order tests for conditions. They can work both collaboratively and autonomously.
Schultz recognized how important the work of an NP is and the high demand for health care professionals in remote areas. In 1995, in the middle of a successful fishing and boat-building career, he started taking night classes with the eventual goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.
Following graduation from the University of Alaska, Schultz practiced nursing in the critical care unit at the Alaska Native Medical Care Centre in Anchorage, Alaska. It was here where he decided to look at universities that offered Master’s degrees in Nursing. Schultz compared UBC’s program to others in the United States and was impressed by the strength of UBC’s program and faculty.
Today, Schultz is one of UBC’s newest graduates to achieve a Master of Nursing -- Nurse Practitioner. The Nurse Practitioner Program at UBC is an intensive two-year full-time program recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia. Before prospective student are accepted into the program they must have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing followed by a minimum of three years experience. To be licensed as a Nurse Practitioner in B.C., a student must pass both written and performance-based board exams.
“For me, approaching healthcare from the perspective of nursing is very rewarding and humbling,” says Schultz. “As a nurse, you have the privilege of witnessing the person’s experience of an illness. Providing care at the bedside for an extended period of time, you encounter patients at turning points in their lives. The relationships we form tend to be more collaborative than hierarchical. The insights developed in nursing, I believe, enable NPs to provide a different kind of care.”
Although this practice is relatively new to B.C. -- UBC graduated its first group of Nurse Practitioners in August 2005 -- it has been a field of study in the U.S. for more than 40 years.
Close to 90 Nurse Practitioners practice independently in rural and urban areas throughout the province, helping to meet critical primary health care needs. Schultz plans to continue his practice in a small town in B.C., as he believes that Nurse Practitioners have an opportunity to improve outcomes, quality, and access to healthcare for all of BC’s citizens.