After working alongside Advanced Practice Providers (APP) for several years as a bedside nurse, Rachel Caplan, APRN, was inspired to go back to school. Now a nurse practitioner in Hospital Medicine, Rachel creates a genuine connection with patients and their families by addressing their questions and concerns in ways they understand.
Why did you decide to become an APP?
I was lucky to work with APPs while I was a bedside nurse for several years, which inspired me to go back to school for my master’s degree. A nurse practitioner gets to expand their skill set, make critical decisions and build their knowledge base to take great care of patients every day.
Can you walk us through a typical day?
Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM) APPs take care of a portion of patients on all inpatient floors. My work starts the night before. I prepare by reading a secure written sign out about the patients who will remain hospitalized from the APP patient assignment. The morning starts with talking to all the overnight residents regarding acute events or updates for patients we know and then about new patients admitted overnight. When I arrive at work, I review patients’ vital signs, lab results, diagnostic imaging, current orders, and nursing notes. I next meet with the nurses taking care of my patients to address any questions/concerns they have and to communicate the plan for the day.
My favorite part comes next, where I get to meet each patient to examine them, find out how they’re feeling, answer questions, and discuss the medical plan/goals for the day with the patient and their caregivers. The rest of the day includes reviewing the patients with the PHM Attending on service, contacting the specialty services involved in my patients’ care for consultation recommendations, and getting feedback about patient progress from Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, and Nutrition Services.
How do you build a connection with your patients?
I connect with patients and their caregivers by taking time to listen to them and addressing their questions and concerns without rushing them. My role is to guide people through their hospitalization, understanding it is often a scary time, and share honest and educated information with them in a way they understand and in partnership with them and their goals. I also like to play and interact with my patients—with a quick game like “I spy” or a thumb wrestling match, a swaddled snuggle, or a joke—to keep things fun.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
One of the best parts of my job is discharging a patient home and seeing the smile on their face! When caregivers say thank you and tell me I had a part in making a tough experience better, I feel proud to be a member of the team.
What is your most memorable moment at Connecticut Children’s?
There is not one moment I can recall because my colleagues are not just my co-workers, they are my friends and each day they make me laugh, teach me something new, help me to take wonderful care of our patients, and make Connecticut Children’s the amazing place it is to work.
What role do APPs play here at Connecticut Children’s?
APPs at Connecticut Children’s have a role in taking great care of our patients and their caregivers in every service and specialty. We are smart, organized, motivated collaborators making a difference in children’s lives through the excellent care we provide every day.
What specific challenges have you encountered in this field of work, and how have you managed these challenges?
COVID presented a time of uncertainty and fear for most people and has been the biggest challenge of my career. My commitment to taking care of children no matter what the diagnosis and the trust I had in Connecticut Children’s to figure out a plan to best care for our patients, kept me going during such a stressful time.
What advice would you give to current and prospective students who are interested in becoming APPs?
My advice for students pursuing their APP degree is to jump in and do it! There’s something for everyone, we are needed everywhere, so find the area you love, learn as much as you can, and try to find a mentor to help you reach your goals.
How do you feel Connecticut Children’s has supported your career growth?
The Office of Advanced Practice Providers (OAPP) has provided opportunities to expand our knowledge outside of the specialty areas we are most familiar with by creating the Education Committee and organizing APP Grand Rounds. I was able to participate in the hospital’s mentorship program where I was supported in presenting at an APP Grand Rounds. I have had the opportunity to help organize the Connecticut Children’s APP Summit for the past two years. Basia Adams and Garry Lapidus both encourage APP career growth through the creation of the OAPP and highlighting the role of APPs at Connecticut Children’s.
How do patients and families inspire you?
I am inspired by the positive attitude patients and caregivers have when they are with us at Connecticut Children’s. They hear the diagnosis and help make the plan to move forward without looking backward. It is amazing how much caregivers love their children and it’s a privilege to help them get better!